House defeats effort to repeal Act 60

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(Host) The Vermont House has defeated an effort to repeal Act 60, the state’s education financing law.

Supporters of repeal argued that the law is too complicated and has dramatically increased property tax burdens in many parts of the state.

But by a three-to-one margin, House members voted to oppose the repeal plan.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) During the last election campaign, a group of roughly 50 lawmakers, virtually all of them Republicans, supported a plan to repeal Act 60 and Act 68.

On Friday afternoon, they brought their fight to the floor of the Vermont House. Under their amendment, Act 60 would be repealed in the summer of 2009. They argued that by repealing Act 60, lawmakers would be forced to pass an alternative system in the next two years.

House minority leader Steve Adams urged his colleagues to support the amendment:

(Adams) “I hope to urge my fellow legislators to recognize that the educational financing system that’s in use today is fundamentally and irreversibly flawed and cannot be repaired the time to stop applying band aids.

(Kinzel) Williston Rep. Mary Peterson opposed the repeal effort. She accused supporters of the plan of playing games with state tax policy without offering a credible alternative:

(Peterson) “I think what’s irresponsible is to just repeal it without being on record and I would point people back to the agreement that we have to be looking at these issues and I would encourage people to participate in those issues.”

(Kinzel) Vernon Rep. Patty O’Donnell supported the repeal movement because she says Act 60 and Act 68 have resulted in higher, not lower property taxes:

(O’Donnell) “Ten years later people can’t afford their property taxes. They’re losing their homes and taxes are at an amount that we couldn’t have even imagined 10 years ago.”

(Kinzel) Vergennes Republican Gregory Clark is the vice chair of the House Education committee. He said his panel hopes to address rising property tax burdens through its examination of the factors driving school costs:

(Clark) “I have great hope that, in fact, the Education Committee will provide such a bill we’ll have it on the House floor for discussion soon and I fully expect that bill to address some of the concerns of Act 60 -68.”

(Kinzel) When the roll call was taken, the House rejected the repeal amendment by a vote of 94-to-33.

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

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