McClaughry: Legislative preview for 2019

By John McClaughry

The Vermont Digger headline a day after the elections well captured the enthusiasm of the newly elected legislative majorities: “Democratic supermajority comes with sky-high expectations.” The final House tally was 102 Democrats and Progressives, 43 Republicans, and five independents. The Senate will be 24-6. Both chambers now have the two-thirds majorities needed to override any veto by Republican Gov. Phil Scott.

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

The Democrats will start with passing another $15 an hour minimum wage bill and a payroll-taxed financed parental leave bill, both of which Scott vetoed last session. But that’s just the unfinished business. With unrestrained legislative power in their hands, all of the issues that excite the liberal imagination will compete for a high rank on the “must pass” list.

Carbon Tax: This measure, first offered in 2014, is now disguised as carbon pricing, pollution fees, decarbonization, cap-and-trade, greenhouse gas initiative, etc. after the initial, straightforward “carbon tax” aroused massive resistance. The recent UN IPCC SR1.5 report telling Americans that we have only a few years left before it will be too late to rescue the dying climate will be weaponized to create a huge new tax resource for state government, but produce no detectable effect on climate.

Welfare Increases: The $15 minimum wage will only benefit lower-wage workers who aren’t priced or automated out of their jobs. Much more compulsion will be needed to that assure everyone enjoys a “livable wage.” Mandating employers to pay it avoids making taxpayers pay it, but mandating that employers stay in Vermont could prove troublesome.

Act 250 Expansion: A stacked six-member legislative commission will report in January on how to strengthen Act 250 after 50 years. Likely recommendations: make Act 250 apply to the smaller developments not now covered, make every development satisfy regulators that it will have no net adverse effect on climate change, and mandate that almost all change occur in state-designated growth centers.

Health Care: High on the agenda will be forcing all individual Vermonters to buy state-approved health insurance or suffer a financial penalty. The Legislature will compliantly support moving forward with the UVM Medical Center-dominated “All Payer” mega-system as a way station toward reviving the single-payer plan that collapsed in December 2014.

Energy: It’s likely that the Legislature will put into state law former Gov. Peter Shumlin’s fiat that Vermont must obtain 90 percent of its total energy needs from renewable sources by 2050. This fiat, once actually enacted, will invite legislators to push through a lengthy list of mandates, prohibitions, regulations and taxes designed to drive up energy prices to benefit the Renewable Industrial Complex and its political friends.

Labor: The Legislature may try to find some workaround to avoid complying with the Supreme Court’s holding that compelled “agency fees” paid to labor unions are blatantly unconstitutional.

Education: The Legislature will cheerfully advance the centralization of control over public education spurred by Act 46, and try to choke off every path for parents and children to escape to independent (non-unionized) schooling. They’ll make universal prekindergarten programs mandatory, publicly controlled and unionized, despite no evidence that pre-K actually improves educational outcomes. They’ll move onward toward replacing the school homestead property tax with income taxes, with little consideration of the effects of much higher income tax rates on the economy.

Gun Control: Having breached the constitutional barrier in 2018, the gun control advocates will try to ban “assault rifles” and prohibit possession of firearms not just by persons judicially adjudged as “extreme risks” (current law), but also by persons subject to much less demanding “relief of abuse” orders.

The new Legislature also will be faced with a deepening liability for state employee and teacher pension and health care benefit obligations, now totaling an astounding $4.5 billion. Failure to a least modestly reverse the trend will result in lowered bond ratings and higher cost of borrowing.

The 2018 legislative leadership recognized this problem and appropriated a one-time extra $36.2 million, but with supermajorities clamoring for immediate spending on pet programs, it’s hard to see how reducing the pension fund inadequacies can compete.

The new legislative majorities will be intoxicated with the declaration put into law in Shumlin’s 2012 budget bill that “spending and revenue policies will reflect the public policy goals established in State law and recognize every person’s need for health, housing, dignified work, education, food, social security, and a healthy environment.”

That lofty purpose neglects a few other considerations, like a business-friendly, job-creating economy, and most people’s need to keep the ever growing Nanny State off of their back and out of their wallets.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Bruce Parker/TNR and John McClaughry
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17 thoughts on “McClaughry: Legislative preview for 2019

  1. the time I wish John’s predictions were wrong – but I wish in vain.

    75 years old, with a household filled thick with memories of a Happy Vermont……….
    Must we be driven out? Are the majority voters so hateful as to make Vt. uninhabitable
    to those who have paid their own way for so many decades?

    It commenced with a Playboy article, and the election of Hoff, who spent like a drunken Sailor.

  2. Vermont is merely 1/50th of America. No fences and far better humanistic life styles elsewhere (except for a few mainly in the Northeast & West Coast). Free to let the feet do the walking. I’ve been in all 49 Continental states and spend winters in AL / FL and know better places. AL is only 1500 miles south, 2+ days at normal speeds.

    In reality if you “have” deeded property in VT, you only rent. They can charge any rent they (town & State) want. Can’t pay the bogus taxes, you’ll know within two years (some towns less than that). There’s no Fair Market Value of properties in VT. Listers are berserk and your “friendly neighbor”—right?

    I’d like to see the state divided in half East to West diagonally WRJ to Vergennes, two governments. The South portion being controlled by Liberals with their taxes, Liberal policies and gun control and the North portion being Conservative with less government control and the way VT once was and promote work. Property values would be based on Fair Market Value like MI & CA. I’ll bet sooner or later the Libs will fail and want to migrate to the North. All socialistic countries in the world have failed. For instance, CA is considering being dived into three section much on the same theme.

    But the Flatlander Liberals in Montpelier (most moved here) won’t allow it unless matters are taken in your own hands. It was tried once before, the Killington area wanted to succeed to New Hampshire. Noting: “At the 2004 and 2005 Town Meetings, the citizens of the ski resort community of Killington, Vermont, voted in favor of pursuing secession from Vermont and admission into the state of New Hampshire, which lies 35 miles to the east”. NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/03/us/a-resort-says-it-s-been-driven-to-the-last-one-secession.html It was covered by the various media. Google it under “Killington Vermont succeeding from Vermont”.

    Sooner or later people will migrate to freedom from oppression, it’s in the genes, basic survival. Government is like the cesspool, most of the crap floats to the top

  3. We are out of here. Lived here all our lives. The flatlanders won. Rich democrats taking money from those who can’t afford it. This is not the Vermont that I love. And to the Vermonters who voted these creeps in, I hope you stew in your own bile…

  4. “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    ― C. S. Lewis

  5. Great….sick and tired of being legally pick pocketed. Hard working ‘silent’ minority has always been stead fast in working to pay Vermont’ taxes. We are your shield, or should I say’were’. There is nobody to cover our backs. I am so damn glad I am near retiring, but can cry for the next generation.

  6. Don’t forget the State is the new ‘pusherman’ of Cannabis too. I guess we have to take the headline “Democratic supermajority comes with sky-high expectations.” literally.

  7. Left VT 15 years ago and have NO REGRETS!!! The secular progressives have run the state into the ground! All I can say is you get what you vote for…unfortunately voting with your “feelings” instead of your brain will bring about ruin for the state. Eventually you run out of money! Do the math, just look at the state employee and teacher pension deficits. $4.5 billion works out to about $9000 per resident. That does not count any other tax burden. Who has that kind of money???

    • Greg that per resident (not taxpayer) burden goes up every year as Vermont’s population remains stagnant or even declines. Good move on jumping ship.

  8. Hi John,
    We gave up, and are now residents of Georgia. We still return to Rochester for 5 months every summer to try to earn some money and enjoy the beauty of Vermont Summers. We mostly live like hermits up in the hills, and try to ignore the muck of Vermont’s politics. I’ve never been a quitter, but the socialist/progressive/democratic approach to life is too repulsive to withstand – at this point in our lives.

    Semper Fidelis

    • Bravo! You won’t be sorry. My father in law can’t find a job in VT, hopefully they will be out shortly as well.

  9. Here you go Vermont, 2019 you and your ” Liberal DemocRATS ” that you voted in to run the State Government. It’s going to be a wild ride. Hold on to your wallets and your guns … they want both.

    • For 227 years Vermonters bought, sold and traded firearms without the transaction entering any database. Nobody knows what anybody has and that’s the way it’s going to stay.

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