Progressives have unleashed a plethora of experimental governmental intrusions into Vermonters’ lives in recent years in an effort to solve every perceived problem with yet another tax-and-spend program. This runaway fantasy has exceeded the limits of functional scale, as seen in numerous unsustainable programs, and especially in the state pensions system. Perhaps Vermont’s bureaucratic takeover of our state’s culture and economy should be reined in with a modest adjustment to representative government that would make it more representative and more responsive: increase salaries for legislative members.
This is a controversial suggestion in times of runaway inflation and widespread disgust with Vermont’s bureaucratic failures. Yet the sad truth is that the economic reward for a part-time legislative job prohibits the vast majority of regular (and young) Vermonters from even seeking elected office, while wealthy or retired people (who may have only recently relocated here from a place alien to Vermont’s people and culture) can afford to run for office and “serve” their own ideology rather than the demographic living around them.
Also, most decent representatives are available year-round to answer questions, talk with constituents, attend meetings, or investigate local matters — without any pay. It is not here suggested that legislators should be paid for that time, only that that is real additional time that justifies better remuneration during session. Farmers and sole proprietors are largely excluded from Vermont’s Legislature in 2022 because they cannot afford to run their year-round businesses part-year. Instead the House and Senate are stacked with out-of-state transplants who declare themselves the voice of Vermont and tax us to death — before they sell up and retire somewhere else and leave those who live and work here to clean up their mess.
For skeptics of this modest proposal to redress this modern imbalance and restore We the People to the engorged Golden Dome in Montpelier, it can be accomplished not by increasing but rather decreasing spending — by restricting the length of legislative sessions, including holding only a two-week session (for budget approval only) every other year. The cost savings (of salaries for legislators and related bureaucratic and capitol building spending) from a biennial two-week session would allow a higher in-session weekly salary for would-be legislators and still save taxpayers many millions of dollars in administrative expenses. Representatives would have a two-week job in the odd years, and could then more realistically sustain an existing business or farm — as was done 200 years ago, when government did not control every detail of Vermonters’ lives.
This proposal is hardly far-fetched. The Texas Constitution limits the regular legislative session to 140 days, and directs that there will be a regular session in each odd-numbered year. That’s right — that massive state’s legislature only meets every other year. Vermont’s boundless Legislature has been introducing some 1,300 or more new bills each year, and it wouldn’t hurt Vermonters to chop that in half. Perhaps then legislators would pause in between frenzied law-making to consider how absurd the Vermont Legislature has become — how many people have been ticketed for illegally idling their cars, or not depositing their kitchen waste into a compost bin? This Legislature just passed a law imposing a two-year jail sentence for threatening a public official — but physically assaulting them is punishable by only one year. This asinine lawmaking reflects the impetuous partisanship behind it.
Vermont’s currently ludicrous progressive Legislature would instead embody common sense and frugality if it reflected Vermonters and their culture. Yet it is not composed of Vermonters, because the deck is stacked against the rural poor and in favor of self-deluded carpetbagging elites. The average income from legislative service in Vermont’s House and Senate is around $1,000 a week for about 17 weeks a year (plus expenses, of which some legislators take full advantage). Texas uses a different scheme:
State legislators in Texas make $600 per month, or $7,200 per year, plus a per diem of $221 for every day the Legislature is in session (also including any special sessions). That adds up to $38,140 a year for a regular session (140 days), with the total pay for a two-year term being $45,340.
Of course, Vermont doesn’t need to become more like Texas. Vermont just needs to become more like Vermont. Vermont should restructure the economic legislative salary and session-length biases that reward wealthy intruders while discouraging working-class citizens from representing their neighbors.
John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield. © Copyright True North Reports 2022. All rights reserved.
14 thoughts on “John Klar: A modest proposal for Vermont’s Bloated Dome”
The U.S. Constitution (and Vermont’s as well) set forth certain principles which Vermont politicians have almost completely forgotten. The people are the “rulers”. Politicians govern by the consent of the people. The government should be small and unobtrusive! Neither the State nor the Federal governments should assert control over areas not permitted to them in writing in those documents, but both levels have done a marvelous job recently of ignoring both of those documents and their boundaries. Our Constitutional Republic is being corrupted. We now appear to have the government written about by Ayn Rand in “Atlas Shrugged”.
Texas has a small and unobtrusive state government which meets every two years for something like a two-month session. Reporter and columnist Molly Ivins made a living writing about it. I recommend you read one of her books. I guarantee you will modify your concept of “small and unobtrusive.”
How about we simplify what they do; Write a law or constitutional amendment that says “No regulation can made” unless it was debated and passed by both houses and signed by the governor. — That stops the bureaucrats and dead heads under the dome.
oh, and THANK YOU John Klar for this article and all others you offer
truly thoughtful, insightful, on target!!
Music to my ears….and eyes! I’ve said for a very long time; taking about/all of 5 months to do a 12 month budget is the most atrocious of advantages. every other year makes total good sense for this small state. the abuse of expenses has been brought forth before (former Lt Gov carpools and claims mileage…dont vote for him..that in my humble opinion is embezzlement). it happens “all the time”, “everyone does it”…..seen it and heard it.
limited session every other year 1 month…..get it done go home. and indeed, this was set up to be done by local farmers, businesspersons and our forefathers knew it a hardship to leave farm/business even back then….these days it “career politicians feathering their own nests and those in their circles.
absolutely drives me crazy to watch this charade every year……we also need to look at TERM LIMITS and our own Gov term, new Gov spends 1 year accustoming and 1 year campaigning, incumbent 1 year working, 1 year campaigning…….
the definition of insanity…..”doing the same thing, and expecting a different outcome”…..it is truly time for TERM LIMITS and LIMITS on the legislative session…..
An excellent idea, if we peg the legislators’ salaries to the distribution of household income in Vermont. Base it on length of incumbency. As median income in Vermont is in the area of $45,000 (2019 data) a year, have half the legislature earning the pro-rated equivalent– x/12ths of that for the number of months they work. As the top 0.2% report (after both federal and state deductions) 49 times that amount, have the top 0.2% of the legislators get paid 49 times what the bottom half earn.
Then put them to work on tax reform and see what happens.
John, I have to correct you on one statement it’s the ” Golden Doom ” as they only produce
doom & gloom for its citizenry, If these elected officials worked for anyone else they would
be fired for incompetence, and we should do the same !!
Legislation should be for the good of the state and its citizens, not an agenda driven
policy for a lobbyist group…………..follow the money entering the state.
If Government cannot produce a balanced budget, and your safety then they need to
be replaced by people willing to hold the line, wake up people vote these fools out.
Under these proposals, how would these retired Senators like McDonald of Orange at 78 years old milk the government. What an easy job, just tell people to buy more blankets if your heating bills go up. Now, that’s representation. Who votes for these politicians? So, just because they have a D behind their name, your financial pain isn’t so bad? Or McCormick who sees no problem in hurting Vermonters with this stupid, ill-conceived notion that we can punish Vermonters by eliminating fossil fuels to heal a perfectly fine planet. For Christ’s sake, look at the sky, is it on fire or is it as blue as it’s ever been? This whole indoctrination nonsense must stop. We have two generations that can’t compete in life because they haven’t been taught about life. They’ve been taught the sky is falling and the earth will die in ten years. Enough is enough, wake up. You are being lied to for a progressive agenda of control. Is your life better now under the titular head president and these moon bats running Vermont? Look at the article on do not charge your electric car during peak times. What if you had to rush a family member to the hospital and your EV is dead in the driveway? Mayb, I hope that will make you think about who’s running your life because it isn’t you.
Nothing new here. I offered a constitutional amendment (Prop 10) in 1991 to terminate the session by April 30, and if the budget was not completed by then, authorize the Governor to allocate the revenue as he/she saw fit, which guaranteed that the legislature would meet the cutoff date. My other proposal was to pay legislators half of their annual salary the first week, and the other half when they adjourned. This would generate enormous pressure to wrap it up, pocket the cash, and leave town.
I wasn’t burned in effigy, but it was a close thing.,
Come on folks…you gata see that this incisive proposal for changing the legislative culture would bring us less intrusive over-reach from Montpelier. Allow me to add that legislators might also consider an expiration date for all legislation. That is, the impact of a law would have to be re-assed and re-voted upon or it expires. Perhaps this would also impact intrusiveness and return the “pursuit of happiness” to the citizens.
Vermont for Vermonters. And while at it, make out of state donations from deep pocket organizations illegal. Why should out of state money be allowed to influence laws pertaining to Vermonters? Why should Zuckerberg’s money influence one party? All this out of state money flowing to Molly (what’s her Name) from liberal orgs. Candidates for office in Vermont should only be supported by Vermont money. Think how that would level the playing field. Look at the campaign war chest Welch, Sanders and Leahy had accumulated over the years. The one reason Trump was so popular was he wasn’t owned by his donars and he donated his presidential salary to charity. Muti-million dollar Joe keeps his salary and over the years of collecting dark money has donated almost nothing.
Well now, we certainly don’t need any more bloating of our already over burdened state budget. Why don’t we the people send our legislators packing, shut down the NGO’s interfering with state governance, trim our bloated statues of all laws, mandates, and executive orders not intended by our state and U.S. Constitution, and return Vermont as a fully Constitutionally governed Republic it once was.
Hear, Hear! All for it!
The legislators really cash in on a meals allowance plus a large payment for staying overnight. Our former beloved lt. governor Zuckerman really cashed in and simply said it was allowed so no big deal.
My wife Judy is running for representative in Springfield and has proposed building housing that legislators could stay in during sessions and rent out the units when the session is over,
I proposed when I ran for governor that we have a weekend legislature so business people and teachers, maybe even farmers who have children home on weekends can participate. One big advantage to that is they would all be anxious to have weekends free when the weather turned nice. Also those who want to participate who have weekends free could go.
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