The first couple weeks of the legislative session has been productive. I’m proud to have been elected by my peers as the House Majority Leader. I’m also proud to announce that Rep. Curt McCormack has been appointed Vice Chair of the Energy and Technology committee.
Last week, Curt and I stood with fellow representatives and coalition partners at the State House to announce legislation to raise the minimum wage over the course of five years to $15 an hour (approximately 31,000/year). We have a problem right now in our state and that is wages are not keeping up with the cost of living, which impacts people’s ability to access child care and housing. Currently, 60,000 Vermonters are living below the poverty line. Women represent less than half of the workforce, but outnumber men when it comes to low wage work. Nearly 45% of all Vermont women earn under $15 per hour and more than 43,000 Vermont children live in a household supported by someone earning less than $15 per house. The House General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee will be taking this bill up shortly and we will keep you posted on its progress.
This week, the House will take up the yearly budget adjustment. This year’s budget adjustment was particularly smooth because of the good work that was done last year to: reduce reliance on one-time funds and make targeted investments that support families, communities, and a healthy economy. This year’s budget adjustment prioritized further investments in a few key areas, including higher education, the Vermont Veteran’s Home, and funding to help clean up the the chemical pollutants (PFOA) in our water supply.
Lastly, Curt and I are still reviewing the details of the governor’s budget address. There are some proposals that we support, like investments in housing for hard working Vermonters and making investments to combat the opiate epidemic. However, we have serious concerns about his Education Fund proposals. Asking school boards to start all over to level fund their budgets and move the date of the school budget vote to May seems unrealistic. We want to work together to find ways to improve education without putting more pressure on property taxes and shifting the liability on to the backs of hard-working Vermont teachers.