Obuchowski talks of education funding change possibility

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(Host) The head of the House Ways and Means committee says it’s likely that his panel will propose a bold change to the state’s education funding system if a large number of school budgets are rejected on Town Meeting Day.

Rockingham Rep. Michael Obuchowski says his panel could turn to an income based approach if it’s clear that the state faces a property tax crisis.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) For the past few years, a number of members of the House Ways and Means Committee have been working on a plan to have more Vermonters pay their school taxes based on their income instead of the value of their property.

Currently about 65% of Vermont households participate in the income sensitive provision of Act 68. This allows people with household incomes below roughly $100,000 to pay about 2% of their income as their school tax.

This provision covers a house and up to two acres of land.

Speaking at VPR’s Symposium on the Future of Education, Rockingham Rep. Michael Obuchowksi says his committee is currently working on two very different approaches this session:

(Obuchowski) “The first track is the framework that was developed by the governor, the Speaker and the president pro tem. We’re trying to be diligent to that and I think that we have. On the second track we have appointed a subcommittee which is looking at an income-based approach to solve this problem. We do not have the governor’s support. I don’t think that we have the president pro tem’s support. I think that the speaker could be convinced.”

(Kinzel) Obuchowski says his committee is ready to begin serious debate over the income-based approach if a large number of school budgets go down to defeat next week.

(Obuchowski) “I think it will give us support to do so. And if we find that more than the normal number of school budgets were defeated, that means that we have a crisis in the state of Vermont – a property tax crisis. And it means that the work that we’ve been doing for the last 3 years deserves to see the light of day. And it will certainly give us more impetus and more push to work on the proposal that we’ve been working on for quite awhile.”

(Kinzel) Obuchowski says his committee will make a decision about which approach to pursue when lawmakers return to Montpelier following their Town Meeting Week break.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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