State News

Human rights groups say “we’re not fooled” on budget and healthcare bills

On April Fool’s Day, a coalition of labor and human rights groups spoke out to say they’re “not fooled” by harsh austerity actions in the Vermont State House, arguing the budget crisis is in fact a revenue crisis which results from the failure to raise taxes in an equitable way–from those who can afford it.

The groups, which include Green Mountain Self-Advocates, Vermont Center for Independent Living, Vermont Homecare United (AFSCME Local 4802) and the Vermont Workers’ Center, are calling on Legislators to recommit to language in the Vermont budget statute, which states that the budget “should be designed to address the needs of the people of Vermont in a way that increases human dignity and equity.”

Legislators should flip the way they make budgets, the groups say, and put people ahead of money by assessing needs and raising equitable taxes based on those needs. The groups condemn proposed language in this year’s budget bill that directly contradicts the requirement to address needs, by cementing a money-over-people approach.

“Making budgets year after year in a way that slashes public services and good jobs is no joke,” said Ellen Schwartz, president of the Vermont Workers’ Center. “By failing to raise revenue equitably in order to meet people’s needs, Governor Shumlin and Vermont’s legislative leadership are reneging on their legal and human rights obligations, and deepening the crisis of inequality in our communities.”

The human rights groups give examples of how, they claim, the people of Vermont are being harmed by this false approach to budgeting–from the governor’s abandoning of public financing for universal healthcare, which would have raised the incomes of 90 percent of Vermont families, to the attacks on state workers and the crucial services they provide, to the disability rights community, which is losing its support workers due to poverty-level wages.

“Our workers don’t make a livable wage,” said a member of Green Mountain Self-Advocates. “It is important for Medicaid to ensure decent wages for support workers, as this would reduce the high turnover rate for support staff working with people with disabilities. When my support workers change all the time, I cannot develop a productive relationship with them.”

“Legislators need to hear all of our voices,” said Amanda Sheppard, president of Vermont Homecare United. “Together, there’s no way to deny that we’re speaking with one voice and that this is what the population really needs.”

On May 1, the groups will join hundreds of people from disability rights, migrant justice, climate justice, labor, and the faith community in a major human rights march and rally at the Vermont statehouse, calling for an economy for people and the planet.

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