Campaign for Vermont: One-third of legislators have conflicts of interest around pensions

Campaign for Vermont (CFV) has long been an advocate for pension reform. After nearly a decade of obstinance, to our surprise, this year the legislature took the first steps towards meaningful action. While they passed on addressing benefits in the 2021 legislative session, they did set aside pre-funding for pensions and created a task force to look at benefits and bring back recommendations this fall. We fully expect that the legislature will pass meaningful pension reform early in 2022 that balances our commitment to public employees and the liability for taxpayers. This is a critical balance to strike.

CFV has been committed to government transparency, ethics, and open government officials. In this light, we were curious what conflicts of interest legislators might have when it comes to pensions and how those conflicts might impact a legislator’s opinion or voting preference on a pension bill. The bill passed this year does allow for several legislators to serve on the summer task force and we are hoping this work will shed some light on who should and should not serve in that capacity.

In response to these questions, CFV conducted research on all 180 legislators, digging through legislative bios, candidate websites, financial disclosure forms, and campaign finance filings. We discovered that nearly one in every three legislators have some sort of conflict when it comes to Vermont’s public pension systems, however, in the Senate that number rose to one in two. In addition to not serving on the task force, some legislators also have conflicts great enough that should preclude them from voting.

The full results of Campaign for Vermont’s research and a full list of recommendations can be found at CampaignForVermont.org/ethics.
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For Immediate Release
June 14, 2021

Contact:
Ben Kinsley
802-310-3904
info@campaignforvermont.org

Image courtesy of Public domain
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10 thoughts on “Campaign for Vermont: One-third of legislators have conflicts of interest around pensions

  1. If legislators with pensions have a conflict of interest in voting on pension matters then so do farmers on agricultural issues, landowners on property tax and education issues, hotel owners on rooms tax issues, and so on. Do we really want to prevent farmer-legislators from voting on agricultural issues or property taxes set by legislators who are not land owners? Fortunately conflict of interest rules do not apply when a legislator has such a widely held interest. They would apply if a legislator were to vote in such way to affect his personal pension (as compared to other people’s pensions) or her own farm (as compared to similar farms.)

    • If this is the Windham County Mr. Galbraith, he presents a typical progressive false dichotomy…. that elected representatives of all stripes have conflicts of interest when voting on policies that affect them directly – and because those interests are commonplace, they are, therefore, reasonable. Nothing could be further from the sentiments first proposed by our Founders.

      Perhaps inadvertently, Mr. Galbraith exposes the classic difference between Keynesian economic philosophies (famously espoused by his progenitor, John Kenneth Galbraith) and the economic inverse expressed by the likes of Milton Freidman, Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian School of Economics. Collectivism vs Individualism.

      The problem, in layman’s terms, is that elected representatives should NOT be deciding where to spend the publics money unless its absolutely necessary (e.g. for the common defense and to sustain our legal system… the military, law enforcement and our courts). Mr. Galbraith assumes that government control of the entire economy is the be all end all of our society when, in fact, as demonstrated over and again, elected officials of all stripes have little business managing the affairs of everyone else. They nearly always underperform.

      I invite everyone, especially Mr. Galbraith, to read James Madison’s Federalist Papers #10 and #51.

      Take ‘Education’ for example. If society, through its elected representatives, deems it appropriate to subsidize the education of everyone’s child, does that mean educators have the right to control their wages, benefits and the curriculum they teach, through a government monopoly? No. Of course not. Yet this is precisely what we have, by virtue of Mr. Galbraith’s economic philosophies. And the failure of that public education system is more apparent today than ever before.

      If, on the other hand, our property taxes were directed proportionately by each parent, to choose the school, the teacher, and the curricula, they believe best meets the needs of their children, the inherent conflict of interest disappears into the omniscience of the educational free market.

      But as Madison so adroitly warned us:

      “From this view of the subject, it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”

      • You have made quite as stretch from my comment on conflict of interest to an attribution of an economic philosophy. Oh well. Straw men are always fun. And much easier than addressing the issue. But, I take it that you are against public funding of education. Too bad for you that it would be a conflict of interest for any landowner-legislator to vote to abolish public financing of education. Or to vote to change the current system. Under your idea of conflict of interest, non property owning legislators could vote on property taxes. .

        • Thank you for responding. And while your points are vague, it’s this kind of dialog that’s important for everyone to consider.

          No. I (personally) am not against publicly funded education, as long as the proportional funding goes directly to the parents to allow them to choose the education they believe is best for their children. Legislators (and the special interest groups funding those legislators) have no business forcing a public school monopoly, whatever pedagogy it stands for, on individual parents and their children. Why? Because what I’m for or against, or what they are for and against, shouldn’t be foisted on others just because I say so or the government says so.

          Further, there is no conflict of interest if a land-owner legislator (or anyone else for that matter, including non-property owners) votes to abolish public financing of education. It only means the government no longer dictates education policy. It means that any existing governmental conflict of interest is eliminated.

          If you believe that what I am proposing isn’t the truth of the matter, please explain.

        • Post Script:

          Re: Under your idea of conflict of interest, non property owning legislators could vote on property taxes.

          Non property owning legislators, if there are any, already do vote on property taxes (i.e. education funding) under the current system.

  2. Perhaps any legislator with a personal interest or connection to the education/State employee pension fund should be prohibited from voting on related legislation or participating in a committee dealing with the pension fund. They have a conflict of interest.

  3. No surprise here. Vermont was recently listed as the most corrupt State in the country by Microsoft News and The World Population Review

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/can-you-guess-the-most-corrupt-state-in-the-united-states/ar-BB1cS8gr

    Why would anyone be surprised when 40% of Vermont’s workforce is employed by the healthcare, education, and government sectors, where most taxpayer funding and special interest lobbying occur. Never mind that Vermont has the highest number per capita of non-profit organizations in the country too.

    In Vermont, after all, Democracy really is like two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Pretty soon, they’ll be chasing their own tails, having consumed all others.

    • On top of that 66% of homeowners get kick backs from the state because they can’t afford their property taxes..

      Couldn’t agree more, we have one of the lowest ethical grades in the Nation…..nobody really wants to talk about it because too many people are getting fat off the taxpayer teat.

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