Op - Ed

Standing by our neighbors

By Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas

The Vermont House of Representatives has a proven track record of fighting for Vermont’s working and middle class families. These families are the backbone of the state and deserve a fair shot at success. Every March, the House passes a budget for the state that affirms our commitment to the safety, health, and success of every Vermonter. During this tough economic time we stand by this commitment and concentrate on the promises we’ve made and by funding our core priorities, rather than on starting new programs.

Our neighbors know that we stand by our core responsibilities to Vermonters. When your grandmother can no longer live alone safely, we want to know there are supports for her to live with dignity. When your neighbor falls victim to addiction, we want to know that someone will step in to protect the children. And when your water tests positive for a carcinogenic pollutant, we want to know the state will step in to provide clean water and hold someone responsible for cleaning up their mess.

We hear criticism from those who would have us spend less money. To that we ask, which of our neighbors would you suggest we set out on their own? Is it the children who depend on Dr. Dynasaur, Vermonters with Medicare Part D who depend on VPharm, or the senior citizens who depend on Choices for Care? Should we take some funding away from the Vermont State Colleges, or take it away from working parents who need a hand paying for childcare?

Vermonters of all abilities deserve to live dignified and productive lives. The supports we have in place for aging and disabled Vermonters help them live successfully in their communities. These programs have enabled us to shut down institutionalized homes for the disabled and slow the rate of growth in nursing home facilities. Stabilizing our existing programs means that for the first time in nearly a decade, we are increasing the reimbursement rate for the social workers, mental health counsellors, and job support mentors who help many of our neighbors successfully live and work in our communities.

All Vermonters are better off when we support each other. Vermonters have spoken clearly that we should invest in child protection workers, substance abuse screeners and judicial capacity to deal with the effects of our opiate addiction problem. The House budget gives stability to several programs that were strained through the recession. The Legislature protected college affordability by putting an extra $800,000 into our Vermont State Colleges. Additional money was invested in childcare, reducing the number of parents who have to make hard choices about their jobs and how their children will be cared for.

Vermonters want to know that their government is efficient and effective, and the House has worked to make sure we are spending your tax dollars well by asking all programs and departments to report on how well they are doing. Many hardworking Vermonters feel like they just can’t get ahead when the system is rigged against them. That’s why we’ve put our foot down and worked hard to enact sensible solutions that make state government work to improve Vermonter’s lives.

Sarah Copeland Hanzas, a Democrat from Orange County, is House majority leader.

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