By Rep. Jessica Brumsted
The Vermont legislature was very busy in the beginning of February. Legislators began the hard work of looking at the education proposals in the Governor’s budget. The Governor’s proposals have serious budget implications for Vermont property tax payers, and it has started a discussion in the State House and around the state about how to responsibly provide equal opportunity in education for every child. Coupled with the interest in building the best preK-12 education system possible is the concern that costs are managed in a way that does not put unreasonable strains on local taxpayers.
During my campaign visits, I heard from many of you throughout Shelburne and St. George that the cost of living in Vermont is too high and more specifically that your property taxes are close to making it prohibitive to remain in your homes. I know that Governor Scott heard similar concerns as he campaigned, and his budget outlines a plan to level-fund our school budgets to help pay for affordable housing, early education and quality childcare. All of these programs are important to all of us, so I am committed to working with the administration and my colleagues to build a responsible budget. Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson has created an ad hoc tri-partisan committee to look at alternative ways to fund our education system. I am honored that she has asked me to serve on the committee and will be bringing my concerns and ideas to our work.
Rep. Kate Webb and I were very proud to welcome four of our younger members to the State House. Champlain Valley Union High School juniors Peter Trombley and Thomas Daley and sophomore Peter Antinozzi, along with Elora Buscher from Hinesburg, traveled to Montpelier with their principal, Adam Bunting, to testify before the House Education Committee. Their comments were well-researched and thoughtful, and committee members really appreciated their interest and participation. Kudos to all!
Other news in Montpelier was the controversial decision to conduct a recount of the House Orange 1 election. The Government Operations Committee, of which I am a member, voted to recommend a recount in this contested election because we believe that election integrity is founded on the knowledge that voters can be assured that their votes will be counted. In the process of hearing days of testimony, we learned that the state has little guidance on how recounts are to be handled. Therefore, though the House agreed that a recount was necessary in this instance, my committee will be developing legislation to ensure more accuracy and consistency in the system.
As I reflect over last week professionally and personally, I am struck by the strong emotion and caring that makes me proud to live in Vermont. I spent a couple of days with a family member being treated in our medical center here, and was awed by the expert care received, from skilled physicians to the incredibly talented nurses and the kind, friendly environmental service workers and also, by the cutting-edge technology they provide. Some of these hardworking men and women are refugees who come to our communities from all over the world. They provide outstanding care and enrich our communities through their presence. They bring a diversity of cultures and experiences that we would not find without the presence of new people in our workplaces, in our schools, in our churches, in our country. It is hard to imagine our communities without this extraordinary diversity; it is so important that we protect against anyone or anything that would try to change that or to infringe on the rights of anyone looking to better her/his life for self and for family.
Breakfasts cancelled, library meetings continue
Rep. Webb and I are not able to resume community breakfast meetings at the Bagel Bakery due to early morning commitments in the State House. We are going to try an evening meeting, to be held at the Shelburne Library from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month during the legislative session. We encourage you to join us with your questions or issues and to learn more about what goes on in Montpelier. I am also always happy to meet with you either in Montpelier, Tuesday through Friday or in Shelburne by appointment, Saturday or Monday.
As always, thank you for the opportunity to serve.
Jessica Brumsted is the State Representative for Chittenden 5-2, Shelburne and St. George. Reach her at Jbrumsted@leg.state.vt.us or 233-2120.