FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 6, 2021
Contact: Rep. Tanya Vyhovsky
MONTPELIER, VT - A group of Vermont legislators are calling for bold progressive legislation to support working Vermonters this Labor Day. In the second year of a pandemic that has devastated the economy and many families’ lives, they are committed to increasing access to affordable housing, income-based education financing, health insurance and mental health care, and secure pensions.
“With unprecedented federal money coming into Vermont to rebuild, now is the time to transform our economy to ensure Vermonters are able to recover equitably, stronger, and more resilient than before. We know that it will take all of us inside and outside the State House to build an economy that works for everyone, and we are ready for that fight,” said Rep. Tanya Vyhovsky, P/D-Chittenden 8-1.
Specifically, they are calling for the passage of S. 52 to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour; S. 65 to enact paid family and medical leave; S.79 to support increased homeownership and a rental registry; and H.388 to shift towards an income-based education funding model. They also hope to highlight legislation in the works to comprehensively address access to mental health care and affordable health insurance, as well as to stabilize and expand the state pension system.
Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, D-Chittenden County, called on Governor Scott to support S.52 and S. 65, which is similar to legislation he vetoed in 2020. “This Labor Day, we must do more for Vermont working families by passing paid family and medical leave and a $15 minimum wage. I’m proud to have cosponsored both and ask Governor Phil Scott to put down the veto pen and extend workers a helping hand.”
Rep. Tiff Bluemle, D-Chittenden 6-5, serves on House General, Housing and Military Affairs and laments the veto of S.79 this past session. "We lost a critical opportunity to expand home ownership and rental housing stock when the Governor vetoed S.79 - at the very time that access to emergency and affordable housing tightened throughout the state. S.79 would have established a revolving loan fund to provide no-interest loans to increase access to homeownership, especially for BIPOC Vermonters. It would also provide grants or loans to bring non-compliant, vacant and blighted rental units online quickly. These kinds of investments are needed to ensure that Vermont workers - the very people we celebrate today - can actually afford to live here,” said Bluemle.
Many efforts are underway to ensure education finance equity, and Rep. Mari Cordes, D/P-Addison-4 is calling on her colleagues to support H. 388, which is also cosponsored by Vyhovsky. “There are many ways that the widening wealth and opportunity gap impacts Vermonters, and how our communities pay for education is one of them. Our bill H. 388, based in large part on the 2020 recommendations from the Vermont Tax Structure Commission, is designed to address that. It is an urgently needed fix to a complicated and unfair system,” said Cordes.
In addition to these bills already introduced in the legislature, they are spending the fall drafting legislation to address mental health care, accessible health insurance, and pension security. Sen. Hinsdale serves on the Affordable & Accessible Health Care Task Force, and believes there is a window of opportunity to explore a Medicaid expansion under the Biden Administration. “The State of Vermont’s 2018 Household Health Insurance Survey found that 40 percent of Vermonters with private insurance are underinsured, up from 27 percent in 2014. We need to reverse this trend and provide Vermonters relief as their out-of-pocket health care costs continue to skyrocket. Expanding Medicaid coverage to Vermonters age 50 and above would cover an important population and reduce the burden of coverage for families and small businesses,” said Hinsdale.
When not serving in the legislature, Vyhovsky practices as a social worker and sees many areas where mental health care access must be improved urgently. “As in so many systems, we had a crisis before COVID and the pandemic has only exacerbated the healthcare and mental health crisis in Vermont. We need to use federal relief funds as an opportunity to invest in transformation of care. It is time to make real investment in universal access to mental health care for our most vulnerable Vermonters; the young, seniors, and those who are struggling with the many mental health impacts of the pandemic,” said Vyhovsky
Vyhovsky and Hinsdale also serve on the House and Senate Government Operations Committees, respectively. They are committed to just solutions for pension stability and security for Vermont’s educators and state employees. They look forward to hearing from all Vermonters with solutions about their pensions in gatherings this fall, and plan to introduce legislation to allow all Vermonters to participate in the public pension system.
“This is a time when Vermonters are asking us to focus on meeting their immediate needs. Housing, health care, and retirement security are the basic building blocks of human infrastructure. They can’t wait, and the infusion of federal funds gives us a unique opportunity to act. This Labor Day, we have an urgent call to action to support workers this upcoming session,” said Hinsdale.