Act 60 Reform Deadlocked in Committee

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(Host) A conference committee on Act 60 appears to be deadlocked over new changes to the state’s education funding law. House Republican leaders on Monday rejected a new Senate Democratic compromise plan for Act 60.

(Kinzel) Finding common ground between the House and the Senate concerning ways to reform Act 60 continues to be struggle at the Statehouse.

The House wants to increase the statewide property tax rate to $1.38 in order to fund a block grant of $7,000 per student and the House also wants to eliminate the sharing pool of Act 60.

The Senate has agreed to a higher statewide property tax rate and late last week it came up with a new plan to eliminate the sharing pool. Under the Senate proposal, a town’s statewide property tax rate would be based on the community’s spending level for education. If the town spent less than the $7,000 block grant, its statewide property tax rate would go down; if the town spent more than the block grant, the rate would go up.

House Republicans studied this plan over the weekend and on Monday afternoon the lead negotiator for the House, Ways and Means Chairman Dick Marron, told the Senate members that their plan has some very serious problems:

(Marron) “You may be getting rid of the sharing pool, but you certainly are not getting rid of sharing. Much of the opposition to the statewide property tax came from cities and towns who were concerned that the state was taking over the only revenue source available to them to fund municipal services.”

(Kinzel) Senate Finance Chairman Peter Shumlin said he was disappointed by Marron’s reaction:

(Shumlin) “I guess we took you at your word when you said that the communities that you’re most concerned about – Stowe, Manchester and others you represent – had accepted the fact that we’re going to have a statewide school tax that sharing is going to happen and that in fact they support sharing and that the objectionable part has been the sharing pool, the ‘shark pool,’ whatever it’s been dubbed.”

(Kinzel) Shumlin says he would like to see the Legislature adjourn by Friday afternoon. Finding a solution to the Act 60 issue under that timeframe would seem to be very difficult. The two sides will meet again on Tuesday.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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