The state’s unemployment fund is facing a $184 million deficit by the end of 2011. That’s huge, and can’t be solved by a single proposal. Rather, a multi-pronged approach that will require the unemployed to do with less and employers to pay more is the only way a deficit of this size will be resolved quickly. Unfortunately, the state Legislature may again postpone action until the following session because the answers are too politically hot to tackle.
To have a serious discussion about the financial benefits of school consolidation, we all first have to agree that unifying governance, alone, solves very little. What is uniformly recognized is that significant savings come by combining schools — including eliminating building expenses; reducing staff, teachers and administrators; and getting the teacher-pupil ratio higher. Reducing the number of school boards and the number of meetings all of those volunteers attend saves little and serves as the smoke screen to the more serious conversation.
On April 18, 1970, then Gov. Deane Davis — clad in work clothes and a brimmed hat with a dozen Boy Scouts in front of him — posed for a photo in the middle of Interstate 89 outside of Montpelier while picking up trash along the highway. It was the state’s first Green Up Day and the governor (who also pushed through Act 250 under Addison County Sen. Art Gibb’s leadership) closed the interstate for the day (imagine!) so Vermonters could safely clean up the state’s busiest thoroughfare.
That’s taking the issue to heart — and making a statement.
Faced with the challenge of cutting $38 million in its Challenges for Change proposal, the Douglas administration finally provided a hint as to where that $38 million would be cut last week. Among the details, the administration suggested $3.4 million be cut from the Unified Economic Development Budget, which includes a number of departments and agencies such as the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Agency of Agriculture, Department of Labor and Tourism, and others. Few object to the cuts, but where those cuts must be made has rankled those most affected.
When Vermont Commissioner of Education Armando Vilaseca released a report last week calling for cuts of $61 million out of the $1.5 billion annual education budget to help balance the budget in fiscal year 2011, you might have missed the political sleight of hand.
It went like this:
In the race to balance the estimated $150 million 2011 budget shortfall, the governor and company targeted a political issue that plays well to supporters: School spending and the desire to reduce school taxes.
Hey, Mt. Abe, buck up. Take the good with the not-so-good and make the best of up to $600,000 the federal government is offering in school improvement grants. That’s not a lot of money spread over three years, considering the union school budget is $13.2 million, but what’s not to like about the opportunity to assess the school’s strengths and weaknesses and devise a “transformation model” that figures out ways to improve the weakest links?
As long as Middlebury travelers are going to have to put up with traffic jams, delays, detours and other interruptions in daily travels because of the Cross Street Bridge construction and changes in surrounding roads for the next six months, let’s at least have some fun with it.
First, let’s give this project a snazzy name.
Count Jon Golnik, a candidate for Congress in Massachusetts, among those Americans who think government can do no right. At a recent Tea Party event in Lowell, Mass., he received an enthusiastic round of applause when he proclaimed: “I don’t know anything government’s ever gotten involved in and made it cheaper and made it better.”
His comment was in reference to the recently passed health care bill, and his object was to bash U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., for her support of the bill — hopefully helping to unseat her in the fall elections.