(Host) Governor Howard Dean wants legislative leaders to jumpstart their stalled negotiations over legislation that would make key changes to Act 60. Earlier this week, House and Senate conferees agreed that it’s unlikely that the differences between the two chambers can be bridged this year. As a result, they decided not to schedule any more meetings on Act 60 reform.
The disagreement between the House and the Senate involves the degree to which property wealthy towns should have to share their local tax revenues with the state. The House wants to reduce the sharing burden of these communities. The Senate wants to insure that these towns continue to meet the equity provisions of the Supreme Court decision on equal education.
Dean says the two sides have both made important concessions and the governor says this is the wrong time to throw in the towel on this bill:
(Dean) “I think we have the Act 60 reform that so many people have wanted right in our grasp here. And I just think it would be a shame to give that up in the last couple of days. What a resolution will do is to preserve the equity that the Supreme Court demanded that Vermont supply and that is benefiting many, many small towns, but yet get the unfairness of the sharing pool off the table.”
(Host) Dean says he likes a plan proposed by the Senate that links a town’s statewide property tax rate with their spending on education. Under this approach, a rate of $1.38 would be imposed to finance a block grant of $7,000 per student. Towns that spend less than that would see their rate decrease, while communities that choose to spend more would see their rate go up.