By Rob Roper

The deadline for candidates filing to run in November’s state elections was yesterday (Thursday, May 26). With many prominent members retiring, particularly from the House, there will be a lot of new names and faces appearing on lawn signs and palm cards in neighborhoods around Vermont this summer and fall. Here are four hard questions to ask the people looking to earn your vote….

The Carbon Tax. Where do you stand on a Carbon Tax? VIPRG and their coalition of 20 allied groups is pushing hard for a Carbon Tax: an excise tax on gasoline, diesel, home heating fuel, propane, natural gas and a few other fuels. When fully implemented the tax would add, for example, 89¢ to every gallon of gasoline and $1.02 to every gallon of home heating fuel. Back in 2014, Rep. Tony Klein, chair of the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee, said that passing a Carbon tax would be a three year process, and would not be done in an election year. That adds up to 2017 – right after this coming election – being the action year for the Carbon Tax. Is this year’s crop of candidates on board, or not?

Dr. Dynasaur 2.0. Where do you stand on the proposed “Dr. Dynasaur 2.0” program – essentially expanding children’s Medicaid benefits to adults 19-26 years old? Despite a structural state deficit and no visible revenue sources to cover the estimated $400 million price tag, the current legislature allocated $100,000 to study this idea. The Speaker of the House, now running for Lt. Governor, praised Dr. Dynasaur 2.0, and the usual phalanx of left wing lobby groups is lining up behind it. Keep in mind that the only hope the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has of being fiscally sustainability counts on those same young adults purchasing health insurance. Removing those healthy young people from the private market will both undercut the ACA, and will cause insurance premiums to skyrocket in addition to necessitating a massive tax increase necessary to pay for the program. Does this sound like a good idea?

Pre-K Expansion. Where do you stand on the expansion of publicly funded, public school run pre-k programs? There is a major push by advocacy organizations to expand Vermont’s current pre-k program, which provides 10 hours of subsidized class per week for three and four year olds, to providing a full day, 40 hour per week program for all four year olds. This full day, public school pre-k is currently being piloted in 8 supervisory unions throughout the state via a $33 million federal grant. The grant runs out in less than three years. Should the Vermont taxpayer pick up the bill for funding this program when the federal funds run out? And, in the name of equity, expand the program statewide, even if this means many tens of millions in increased property taxes? Are our candidates in favor essentially adding a grade to the public school system, or lower property taxes. Can’t be both.

School Choice. Will you demand and vote for a fix to Act 46 that preserves school choice in the towns that have had it for 150 years? According to many current legislators, they expected (and were told) Act 46 would allow for school choice towns to merge and keep their choice. In practice, school districts are now being told that choice districts may not merge with operating districts unless the choice district gives up choice or the operating district closes its school. This is either leading to a loss of school choice or gridlock in the merger process. In 2016 the Chair of the House Education Committee refused to even consider a legislative fix to this problem. Are this year’s candidates out to kill school choice or save it?

Be sure to ask these questions ASAP! Before the lobbyists and party leadership get to the newbies and tell them what to say.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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by Rob Roper

Many states are considering a ban on a new technology that provides a cheaper, more convenient way for eye patients to take an exam that can determine their prescriptions using either a smartphone or computer, and deliver a prescription within 24 hours. Optometrists are not thrilled, and their Luddite lobby wants to kill this amazing innovation.

The technology is called Optermative. It is not meant or billed to be a replacement for an eye-health exam. It takes just 25 minutes and costs just $40 for glasses or contact lenses or $60 for both.

An article about Opternative describes the process as follows: “You follow the dictated and written instructions to cover one eye at a time, look at your computer screen, and answer corresponding visual acuity questions on your phone. How many lines are in a symbol? Which of these symbols is a different shape from the rest? What colored number is in the surrounding dots? For some tests, you’ll give your shoe size and be told to walk a certain number of heel-to-toe steps away from your computer before answering.”

It’s quicker, cheaper, more convenient, and just as accurate as a traditional exam for the consumer… so naturally governments are scrambling to ban the technology to placate an entrenched special interest. Indiana has outlawed the test and Michigan sent the company a cease-and-desist order. Georgia is the latest state to ban the technology.

But when similar legislation reached South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley’s desk, she vetoed it with the message, “The answer to this problem is not to ban a new technology, but rather expand its use. Send a bill to my desk that allows the expanded use of automatic vision evaluations in all medical settings, and I will sign it.” Good for her!

As Opternative’s website says, “Eye exams for glasses and contact prescriptions are just the beginning. We envision a world where technology allows patients and doctors to connect to make all aspects of vision care more convenient, accessible and even fun!”

Indeed, this technology, like all innovations in the hands of entrepreneurs in a free market, is a stepping stone. And, at a time when we need to find cheaper ways of delivering healthcare, should be celebrated and encouraged. Let’s hope governments (thinking Vermont here) will help rather than hinder these advancements — by staying the heck out of the way!

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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by Rob Roper

A remarkable editorial appeared in Vermont Digger this week. Remarkable not so much for what it said, but for who said it how many readers loudly echoed its message. The article is Where’s the Public Interest in VPIRG’s Lobbying, and the author is Keith Ballek, a member of his town and county Democratic Party organization and a delegate to the Vermont State Democratic Committee.

Ballek’s message is simple: VPIRG has basically become a lobbying firm for big corporate renewable energy businesses. He concludes, “It’s become painfully obvious that VPIRG has sold its soul to the very corporate interests from whom they are supposed to be protecting the public.” This is no great revelation for EAI readers. We have been pointing this out for several years, but for a high-ranking Democratic Party official to see the light and sound the alarm so forcefully is remarkable, and illustrates that there is bipartisan frustration with Vermont’s renewable energy policy.

Perhaps even more enlightening (and encouraging) are the comments that follow Mr. Ballek’s piece. Readers go into great detail about the links between VPIRG board members and donors and the private renewable companies that they own and run, particularly the unseemly, for-profit spinoff of VPIRG, SunCommon.

Michelle DaVia commented, for example, “Paul, Why are two owners of SunCommon on the VPIRG Board? How is that NOT a clearly apparent conflict of interest that VPIRG did not think would taint them? Has Duane Peterson or Mathew Rubin disclosed to the VRIPG Board the multiple SunCommon foreign owned Sun CSA subsidiary’s and their function or exact connection to SunCommon?”

Annette Smith added, “In reviewing legislation about net metering, I find it interesting that many of the regulatory thresholds are for 150 kW. SunCommon specializes in “Community Solar Arrays” that are mostly 150 kW. The 150 kW installations escape quite a few regulatory requirements that a 151 and larger project kW project must meet. Gotta wonder how many gifts James and VPIRG got into legislation to provide SunCommon with preferential treatment through the regulatory process.”

Here’s the scam. By “donating” to a non-profit group, these big moneyed interests have essentially hired a lobbying firm – without having to comply with lobbyist disclosure laws. And, not for nothing, shrouding their special interests in a cloak of public interest, though it seems the bloom is off that rose.

Even more striking about the Digger article is the total lopsidedness of the commentary. VT Digger has added Facebook-esqe thumbs up/thumbs down feature. When VPIRG executive director, Paul Burns weighed in to defend his organization, as of this writing the “thumbs down” is outpacing the “thumbs up” 86 to 11. Other comments receive similar results.

It’s good to see that Mr. Ballek’s eyes are open to the corruption of VPIRG and the unseemly relationships between its big donors and the companies they run at the expense of taxpayers and the wishes of local communities. The next step for Mr. Ballek might be to investigate what politicians those same donors are giving big money to – fertilizing both sides of the lobbying effort. He might find he has to do some soul searching regarding his own political party.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

 

 

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by John McClaughryJohn McClaughry

The 2016 legislative session is now history, and it’s worthwhile to assess its production. My criteria include preserving fiscal responsibility, advancing liberty, limiting government, and thwarting various hungry special interests. The basic facts are readily available from the thorough reporting by VTDigger.org

First, the legislature managed to balance the FY2017 General Fund budget, once again by raising taxes and fees by $28 million. Wary of any obvious tax and fee increases in election year, the tax committees found a convenient target – the mutual fund industry, almost entirely inhabited by out of staters. Hitting it up for $20.8 million closed most of the gap, without arousing Vermont taxpayers.

Gov. Shumlin had mounted a campaign to tax 1,200 doctors and dentists in independent practice, to extract more Medicaid money from Washington. That didn’t fly. Nor did a House-proposed increase in the employer tax to finance Medicaid, or a bank franchise tax increase. The legislature also faithfully transferred the formula-required $306 million to the Education Fund.

Perhaps most importantly, the legislature backed off the VPIRG proposal to combat “climate change” by levying a hefty carbon tax on home heating oil, gasoline, diesel, natural gas and propane. Despite a long list of endorsers of the idea – the usual suspects – many legislators (including some Democrats) didn’t want to go into an election having voted to extract $500 million from Vermont consumers in its tenth year.

The carbon tax proposal promised to return 90% of the revenues to selected taxpayers after the renewable energy and weatherization interests skimmed off the top ten percent as a “societal benefit”. This unbelievable promise is reminiscent of President Obama’s promise, “if you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it.”

The VPIRG-led “Energy Independent Vermont” coalition got more of its nose into the tent by getting an increase in gross fuel receipts taxes to raise another $2.9 million for “weatherization”. The coalition – now demanding “pollution pricing”, the latest euphemism for “carbon tax” –   promises to come roaring back in 2017, so we haven’t heard the last of this bad idea.

One brave little step was the privatizing of the risk management office that determines workers compensation claims. This will save $500,000.How this got through over the frantic opposition of the Vermont State Employees Association is just short of miraculous. It is a welcome exception to the VSEA maxim that “no matter how much privatization might save the taxpayers, none of it is ever acceptable.”

One of Gov. Shumlin’s final bright ideas was to have state government open a college savings account for all children born in Vermont, rich and poor alike, and find $250 to fund each of them. The argument: “Why should this responsibility be left to Mom and Dad, when our state government is ready and eager to hit up taxpayers for $250 a pop to get things moving?” The legislators, to their credit, didn’t buy it.

The solons passed an energy siting bill that required towns upset by wind and solar impacts to buy into the state’s planning to force us to achieve “90% renewable energy by 2050” . In return for hugging the octopus, a concerned town would win “substantial deference” for its town plan before the pro-renewable and lawyer-intensive Public Service Board. The $300,000 promised to towns to adopt state-approved plans somehow disappeared from the appropriations bill. Passage of the siting bill will prove to be an illusory triumph for towns and citizens.

The 2015 education consolidation bill (Act 46) seriously threatens to exterminate school choice in Vermont’s 90 tuition towns. The education establishment, led in the House by Speaker Shap Smith and Education Chair David Sharpe, stifled efforts by (mostly) Republicans to find a way to rescue parental choice within the new Unified Districts. Both parties have now accepted “strict cost containment’ – holding down school property tax rates by manipulating state caps and penalties until all school districts toe the state’s line. This is precisely what critics of Act 60 in 1997 said would happen. Farewell, local control.

The health care “reform” bill groped about looking for a way to solve the chronic failure called Vermont Health Connect, awarded a further overdose of regulatory power to the Green Mountain Care Board, and shelled out another $100,000 to pay for a recurring study of single payer on the installment plan.

A bill to make life easier and more predictable for independent contractors – reported 11-0 from the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee – disappeared due to the usual union opposition.

Two small bright spots: the legislature voted to protect the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers from negligence claims arising from accidents on their snowmobile trails. Also, it turned its back on a bunch of gun control bills despite lavish lobbying by the Bloomberg-financed gun control lobby.

From the standpoint of the past five years, the money committees commendably produced a balanced budget with only a small infusion of new tax dollars. From the standpoint of what needs to be done – to rationalize health care, expand parental choice in education, and get the renewable industrial complex’s nose out of the trough – well, there’s always next year, with a new Governor.

- John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org).

 

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by John McClaughry

Critics of nuclear energy – of which Vermont abounds – like to point out that in the U.S. nuclear is hugely capital intensive and thus makes expensive electricity.

A recent article in the journal Energy Policy compared the cost of nuclear electricity over the past fifty years in the US, Japan, Germany, France, India and South Korea. All of these countries feature large capital intensive plants, but the others hold costs down far better that we Americans.

They use standardized designs for reactors, and they group reactors in twins or quadruplets to save money on common facilities like control, fuel handing and security. The Chinese and Koreans are building six and eight reactors per site. In addition, the workforce at a site deals with reactors that are essentially all the same, rather than having to learn the peculiar workings of each one.

The article didn’t mention another key factor: our constipated Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which spends up to ten years approving a new reactor design, by which time it’s likely obsolete.

Twenty years from now our children will see modular Generation Four reactors completely different from the light water reactors now in use. They’ll come in standardized factory-built 200 Megawatt modules, maybe six to a site, with onsite processing of fuel. Whether they’ll be integrated fast reactors, like the Russian BR600, or pebble bed reactors like the Chinese model, or liquid fluoride thorium reactors under development here and in India, is the interesting question.

Even though the great global warming guru James Hansen, whose testimony fired up Al Gore back in 1988, has become an ardent advocate for nuclear energy, the anti-nukies in Vermont remain passionately opposed to the n-word. Speaking for humanity, I can’t find any reason to forgive them.

- John McClaughry is the founder and vice-president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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by Rob Roper

Another article appears in VT Digger today pumping up the false crisis regarding a lack of childcare options in Vermont. This one is called, Child Care Supply Is Far Below Demand, New Analysis Finds. But here’s the catch… it is only referring to “high quality” childcare. And what are they calling “high quality?” Only that which is regulated and subsidized through the public school system.

According to a VT Digger article from Sept. 15 by this same author, “As of 2013, Vermont’s licensed child care – including home care — providers had capacity for 27,500 children.” This is more than enough to meet demand.

For over a decade the Vermont NEA has been orchestrating a hostile takeover — using tens of millions of taxpayer dollars — of the childcare market currently served by hundreds of small, independent childcare providers.

The notion that only “high quality” childcare is delivered through the public school system, or directly regulated by it through partnerships with the education bureaucracy, is a fallacy. If these programs are really so “high quality,” how come since these “high quality” high cost programs have been expanding in Vermont, the fourth graders who have matriculated through a system having increasing availably of “high quality” taxpayer subsidized pre-k have seen their test scores DROP?

The question Vermonters have to ask is if you want to see your property taxes explode to subsidize the government takeover of a sector of the economy currently being served by hundreds of small businesses, mostly run by women, who have a hard enough time making ends meet.

VT Digger seems to be on board with the takeover…

May 18. Child Care Supply Is Far Below Demand, New Analysis Finds

April 25. Education Board Asked to Offer Fix for Concerns About Pre-K Law

April 24. Early Education Survey Highlights Public Private Differences

April 12. Pre-K Supporters Look for State Help When Federal Money Ends

September 13. Parents Struggle to Find Affordable Quality Child Care

In all of these articles — total — there is only one person cited who (mildly) questions the premise that we need to charge forward with more, taxpayer funded, public school operated pre-k. Certainly nobody who is outright opposed. There is only one question raised about the cost of expanding taxpayer subsidized pre-k, and that question gets a non-answer — JFO hasn’t scored it yet. And, not a single interview of an independent childcare provider who has been or will likely be put out of business by this program gets a chance to make her voice heard.

Gunga Din didn’t carry this much water!

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

 

 

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by John McClaughry

On May 6 a remarkable story appeared in the Caledonian Record. The caption was “Breaking Ground on South Korea Campus Project.”

The story reports that on April 29 contractors broke ground for a new twelve hundred student educational complex on Jeju Global Education City, on an island off South Korea. The remarkable part was that the new school will be a clone of the independent St. Johnsbury Academy, that enrolls nearly a thousand students in the Northeast Kingdom, northern New Hampshire, and 25 foreign countries.

The Jeju campus will offer Korean and other Asian children quality K-12 education in English. At the secondary level, the Academy will feature daily chapel, capstone achievement program, advanced placement curriculum, athletics, and the Academy’s tradition of respect and educational excellence.

What the South Koreans have done is invite a number of foreign world class secondary schools to establish new campuses on Jeju Island. The island is the size of Jamaica and has a population about the same as Vermont’s. Its climate is like that of Atlanta, and its highest mountain is slightly higher than Mt. Washington.

The Jeju campus will be managed by a joint board of Koreans and St. Johnsbury Academy leaders.

Let’s give a gold star to the South Koreans for creating this really innovative project to prepare its young people to be leaders in a global economy, and another to the farsighted leadership of independent St. Johnsbury Academy. Ask yourself: could any public school in Vermont have undertaken this project?

- John McClaughry is the founder and vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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by Rob Roper

Voices for Vermont Children just published a pretty remarkable indictment of our public school system. The study, Education Matters: The Impacts of Systemic Inequity in Vermont, concludes, essentially, that public schools as they are currently operated to put it bluntly screw poor kids, minorities and those with special needs.

But wait a minute! I thought this was what independent schools did. And this was why tuitioning dollars from Vermont’s 90 school choice towns flowing to such independent schools was unjustified and an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds.

Of course, Voices for Vermont Children does not draw any common sense solutions from its research (their aim is to get more money to expand this inherently unjust system), but the problems with a one-size-fits-all, government monopoly system are quite real. Some of these “systematic inequalities” are:

  • children with disabilities and students of color all score worse on standardized tests than children who aren’t in these groups.
  • the achievement gap between income levels averages 25 percent and the racial gap averages about 18 percent.
  • dramatically different levels of suspension and expulsion for low-income students compared to their peers.

Of course this is the case, because the public school system — unlike tuitioning and school choice systems — benefits the wealthy at the expense of the poor.

Want to attend a good public school? Buy or rent a house in a high cost zip code with the best school. Too poor to afford that? Well, tough luck. The public school in your zip code isn’t meeting the particular needs of your child? Pay out of pocket to attend an independent school. Too poor to afford that? Well, tough luck. You’re powerless.

School choice and tuitioning, however, empowers families who are less well off. Can’t afford to live in the high-rent district with the good school? Don’t worry; you don’t have to to attend. The public school isn’t working for your child? No problem, we’ll use that same money to send your child to a school that better meets your child’s needs.

When everyone in a community is forced to attend a single public school – one-size-fits-all – who determines what that one size is? The wealthier, better educated parents who attend meetings, know the laws, and have the time and resources to advocate for their children.

Let’s look at outcomes for poor and minority students in the public school system vs. those who have access to school choice through voucher systems in other states. A recent series of studies by the Stanford Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) repeatedly demonstrates that the real beneficiaries of choice are children in poverty, minorities, and (though not a factor in the VfVC study) English as a second language student:

Charter students in poverty in 2013 continue to have an advantage over their TPS [Traditional Public School] counterparts. The difference in 2013 is 14 additional days of learning. Both continuing and new schools have statistically significant and positive reading impacts for charter students in poverty.

 And,

Compared to the learning gains of TPS students in poverty, charter students in poverty learn significantly more in math,… Moreover, this difference in performance has widened. In 2009, charter students in poverty had about seven additional days of learning in math than their TPS peers, while in 2013 the advantage is 22 additional days of learning for charter students in poverty. Mirroring the reading findings, both continuing and new schools in 2013 have positive math impacts for charter students in poverty. ( National Charter School Study 2013)

So, if the folks at Voices for Vermont Families really wanted to go a long way toward solving the problem of systematic inequality in our public school system, they would be advocating hard for expanding school choice and empowering parents. Instead, they want to:

  • Grow the community schools model that incorporates services like health, after-school and summer programs and free meals.
  • Increase inclusion in schools by reducing expulsions and eliminating zero-tolerance policies.
  • Change the culture within schools to help more marginalized populations get involved and work to create a level playing field.

Or, in other words, keep pouring more and more money down a rat hole, expanding and rewarding a system that we know darn well doesn’t work.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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by John J. Metzler

Governments throughout the world seem increasingly nervous if not paranoid over a free press and media, according to a searingly poignant survey by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The annual survey of the global media in 180 countries, the French-based monitor report underscores a gradual deterioration in freedoms and the rights of journalists to freely pursue and present reports.

“It is unfortunately clear that many of the world’s leaders are developing a form of paranoia about legitimate journalism,” states Christophe Deloire, RSF’s Secretary General. He adds, “The climate of fear results in a growing aversion to debate and pluralism, a clampdown on the media by ever more authoritarian and oppressive governments.”

All this points to what the watchdog group calls a “deep and disturbing decline in media freedoms.”

Days after this statement, the Islamic Republic of Iran sentenced four reformist journalists to prison on the charges of “acting against national security.” Though the Tehran regime’s actions are hardly surprising, the RSF report overviews the wider deterioration of press freedoms and accessibly in the USA and Europe as well.

First let’s analyze the survey, compiled by a rigorous methodology and analysis. Of the top ten countries with the freest media include Finland, Norway, Netherlands, Denmark and New Zealand. Not surprising. The second five include Costa Rica, Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland and Jamaica.   Again impressive, but where’s the USA?

Let’s look at the next ten countries. There’s Austria, Slovakia, Belgium, Germany and Canada among them. There’s good news here: Estonia has the best ratings of any country in the post-Soviet Union while Slovakia has the best numbers of any country in former Eastern Europe.

Yet again, where’s the USA?

The United States is ranked 41st in press freedoms, that’s behind South Africa and Slovenia and just ahead of Burkina Faso and Botswana. Despite America’s long cherished First Amendment which constitutionally provides for extensive media rights, there’s been a steady erosion of journalistic freedoms in recent years. In 2015 the USA ranked 49th. But why?

The reasons are manifest in the Administration’s stringent use of security legislation. According to the report, “The main cause for concern for RSF continues to be the current administration’s obsessive control of information, which manifests itself through the war on whistleblowers and journalists’ sources, as well as the lack of government transparency, which reporters have continually criticized. ”

The RSF survey adds poignantly, “The Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined.”

But it’ s not just the U.S. slipping in press freedoms. Japan which has proudly sustained a free press in the postwar era, has now slipped eleven places to #72, just behind South Korea. Japan’s press restrictions concerning “state secrets” remain onerous.

During a recent visit to Tokyo, UN special Rapporteur David Kaye called on the Japanese government to safeguard media independence which he stressed were facing “serious threats.”

Kaye’s criticism stems from parliamentary legislation which expands wider protections to what’s deemed “state secrets.”

The Republic of China on Taiwan still maintains the highest free press standing in East Asia: Taiwan comes in at #51, compared with Hong Kong at #69 and the Philippines at #138. Mainland China’s media freedoms are near the end of the list scoring #176, just behind Vietnam and one step ahead of Syria.

As in past years we see the steady and sustained assault on free media: press, radio/TV, internet and blogs from a wide swath of regimes many of whom are under the political radar. Of the usual suspects, Venezuela stands at #139, Russia at #148 and Islamic Iran at #169, but then there are places like Azerbaijan at #163 or Sudan at #174, or even Mexico where drug cartel violence, killings of journalists, and widespread corruption impact on a media which ranks #149 globally.

As is now almost a tradition, North Korea and Eritrea are at the bottom of the list rounding out the most repressive states for media freedoms.

Surprised?

- John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China.

 

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by Rob Roper

VPR ran a piece on the rising costs of health insurance in Vermont – BCBS and MVP are requesting 8% increases in premium prices – despite all the healthcare “reform” efforts that were supposed to get these costs under control. In this article, Green Mountain Care Board chairman, Al Gobeille, noted that, “Every year, about $400 million in private insurance premiums are used to prop up government-subsidized insurance programs that don’t cover the cost of care for patients covered by them.”

Think about that for a second. $400 million in private premiums are being used to subsidize government run healthcare programs. This is a tax. A really big tax

It’s just not called a tax, so politicians don’t have to take the heat for these massive rate increases. We all hate the greedy insurance companies, right? The politicians are just trying to make things better! It’s truly diabolical.

When politicians suggest a $500 million Carbon Tax that will make gasoline and home heating fuel – two pretty important things for daily life – more expensive Vermonters are ready to run every elected official out of town on a rail. Yet here we have a $400 million hidden tax that makes private healthcare premiums – also pretty important to daily life — unaffordable, and… meh.

VPR also quotes Chief of Healthcare Reform, Lawrence Miller, as saying we need to eliminate the “perverse incentives” that are driving up cost. This is true. So how about we start with the perverse incentive created by allowing politicians to levy a nearly half a billion dollar a year tax on people who are doing the right thing and purchasing health insurance and escaping all accountability for doing so. Let’s eliminate the $400 million cost shift “tax” on healthcare premiums and replace it with an actual tax on Vermonters, the revenue from which will be used to subsidize the healthcare of those who can’t or won’t pay for it themselves.

Who wants to bet that if this sort of transparent public healthcare funding policy were put into place, subject to an annual roll call vote just like the transportation fund or the education fund, if politicians wouldn’t be a little more active and creative in controlling costs.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute 

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