VSEA NMU Chair Ed Stanak’s 3/17 Testimony In Front Of House Ways & Means

"Without exaggeration, I can say that state programs are in serious jeopardy, essential services are at risk and, in some respects, are unraveling."

Ed Stanak
 
Statement of Ed Stanak at March 17, 2009 Hearing of Vermont House
Ways and Means Committee on Revenue Sources
 
My name is Ed Stanak and I am a resident of Barre City. I am a state employee with 29 years of public service. I am the past president of the Vermont State Employees Association (VSEA) and the current chair of the VSEA Nonmanagement Unit bargaining unit which represents over 3,800 VSEA members who work for the Agencies of Human Services, Transportation, Natural Resources and the many departments that are the backbone of state government *.
 
In my elected VSEA roles, I have been in very close contact with Vermont state employees over the last 8 years. Without exaggeration, I can say that state programs are in serious jeopardy, essential services are at risk and, in some respects, are unraveling.
 
We  are hearing credible reports from VSEA members that the Agency of Human Services does not apply for federal grant money to fund its programs due to a lack of staff to complete the grant application process. Similarly, there are other stories of Vermonters being unable to access the state’s automated unemployment insurance program and thus do not receive earned benefits and are disappearing off the radar scope. These are just two examples of how things are worsening . We may be slipping into a downward spiral of public services that may prove irreparable.
 
Public services require lifeblood and about one hundred years ago United States Supreme Court Justice Brandeis described taxation as the lifeblood of a democratic government.
 
VSEA is aware of several pending proposals for additional revenue sources and we urge the Ways and Means Committee to deliberate over those proposals from a perspective that “ tax” is indeed not a four letter word
 
H-177 ( “the Snelling surcharge”) appears to be a specific, rational and fair means for generating additional revenues. History has already shown that the late Governor Richard Snelling was a leader who recognized the responsibility for government action during hard economic times. I for one am willing to be taxed at a higher rate to ensure the common good and the stability of our community – as scripture and the civil rights movement would say, “the beloved community”.
 
Please also take steps to consider other fair and equitable sources of revenues to fund necessary quality public services for Vermonters. Thank you.
 
* As a brief aside, I would like to comment on the remarks of an earlier witness who said that New Hampshire gets by with a smaller state employee work force even though the state has a population larger than Vermont’s. Although New Hampshire has a smaller state work force, it also has a substantial county work force providing public services. I submit that Vermonters get a much bigger bang for their bucks from their state work force.