Monday April 29, 2013

As the legislative session winds up it has become apparent that we are facing another wave of tax increases. You have successfully increased spending by rates far exceeding population growth, income growth and inflation. Nearly every Vermonter has tightened their belt since the great recession; it seems that Montpelier has failed to do the same. It is this failure that will force more Vermonters into poverty, drive entrepreneurs away from our state, and continue the flight of domicile for wealthy Vermonters.

This is not anecdotal, all evidence points to these facts, and even our governor recognizes this problem. As our elected representatives it is your responsibility to think outside the box and find solutions to our budgetary problems, the capacity to tax your way out of the problem is reaching a breaking point. Since you have once again failed in this respect I am offering a few ideas that might save Vermont some much needed money, and reduce the need to raise taxes at this unsustainable rate.

Keep VT Trans employees focused on road and equipment maintenance. Our corrections facilities are full of individuals capable of picking up trash on our roadways. The time and resources wasted on this by VT Trans is considerable and would be much better served fixing equipment, and repairing roadways. This shift in resource management would free up funds and reduce the need for a gas and diesel tax increase.

Stop slow boiling the frog and force consolidation of administrative duties in supervisory unions. Allowing each school district to negotiate insurance rates, perform payroll duties, and act as their own human resource department is simply redundant and a waste of money. This can become the stepping stone for much needed consolidation of all administrative duties. We have more administrators per student than any other state. Our administrators blame Federal regulations, which, if in fact is the problem, then obviously other states perform these duties much more efficiently than we do, copy them. Let’s put egos, and lobbyists aside so more of each dollar actually goes towards classroom education.

Open up state lands to habitat improvement and sustainable logging. Our state forests have been railroaded by special interests and frivolous lawsuits, and the wildlife diversity and working landscape have suffered dramatically. We have cold hard facts obtained from Vermont’s Land Use Value program that a working landscape creates jobs, improves habitat, and that the money stays local.

Consolidate the bloated bureaucracy of our state lending agencies under the roof of a Vermont State Bank, similar to North Dakota. You would dramatically reduce the cost of bonding, and administration. More importantly you would have transparent institution where Vermonters could go for everything from economic development grants and loans to student aid. A much needed improvement from the spider web bureaucracy that we currently enjoy.

I acknowledge that these ideas take time, but one can only assume that time is in abundance in Montpelier if you are discussing issues such as: photography without permission, therapeutic fishing, labeling of dumpsters, student use of cell phones, and green burials.

All of these issues, while important to a small constituency, have no bearing on the more serious big picture problems that our state faces. Let’s put common sense in front of emotion and get Vermonters working again.

MIKE GARDNER

Shaftsbury