Organizations affiliated with the Vermont Human Rights Council, a coalition of disability rights, climate justice, and workers’ rights organizations, released the following statement in response to Governor Shumlin’s budget address:
“The purpose of our state budget is to address the fundamental needs of all residents, and to advance dignity and equity. These are common-sense goals that reflect the shared values of the people of Vermont. They are also stated in Vermont law (32 V.S.A. § 306a).
Yet (on Jan. 15) we witnessed once again the failure of state government to fulfill this basic obligation. Proposed budget cuts range from libraries to heating assistance, and from wage cuts for state workers to cuts to the Reach Up program, as well as continuing many of the additional cuts made to this year’s budget ($30 million in July and $12 million this month). Gutting public services and programs will harm many people in our state, at the same time as our tax system continues to privilege the wealthy and increases tax breaks for larger businesses.
Even though Vermont’s economy is now one of the fastest growing in New England, most people are not benefiting from this. On the contrary, the gap between the rich and the rest of us is widening. Median household income dropped to its lowest level in 10 years, poverty and homelessness are on this rise, and 1 in 6 Vermonters are forced to rely on food stamps to feed their families.
Workers’ rights are also under attack in this budget proposal: the governor seeks to outlaw educators’ right to strike, cut wages and benefits of state workers, and lower the wage rate requirements for businesses that receive tax incentives.
The Human Rights Council calls on our elected representatives to recognize that growing inequity in our state is a product of failed policies, and as such is up to legislators to change.
Keith Brunner of the Vermont Worker’s Center