Progressive caucus targets issues that affect working families

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(Host) The Progressive caucus of the Vermont House says it wants to concentrate on issues that will have a direct impact on the lives of working families throughout the state.

The priorities include property tax reform, a new state energy policy and a health care system that covers all Vermonters.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) While the Progressives didn’t add to their total of 6 seats in the Vermont House in the November election – they did expand their geographic representation. There are now members in Burlington, Brattleboro, the Northeast Kingdom and Orange County.

Burlington Rep. Chris Pearson is the head of the Progressive Caucus. He says one of the Party’s top goals is to pass a property tax reform plan that allows homeowners to pay their school taxes based on their income.

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns is backing a proposal that imposes a 1 % income tax surcharge as a way to dramatically reduce property tax burdens. Peason likes this approach.

(Pearson) “Can’t we find a solution that doesn’t have taxpayers screaming at Town Meeting and in letters to the editor. Vermont deserves a simple formula based on the income tax. The market rate of my home is not a good indicator of my ability to pay for schools.”

(Kinzel) Health care reform is another top issue for the Progressives. Rochester Rep. Sandy Haas says the primary focus of the Catamount Health Care plan that was passed last year, is to provide coverage to uninsured people. She thinks the scope of the law is very limited.

(Haas) “In talking to several of my colleagues what I hear was that the voters are not satisfied that we have addressed this issue. As people went door to door this summer the voters were still talking about it. So you hear from the small business person. You hear from the person who has the 6 or 8 thousand dollar catastrophic policy with the 6 thousand dollar deductible who is in fact insured that therefore probably won’t qualify.”

(Kinzel) The state’s future energy policy is the third key agenda item for the Progressives.

Brattleoboro Rep. Sarah Edwards hopes to convince lawmakers to oppose a 20-year license extension for the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power plant. The facility’s current license runs out in 2012 and the Legislature must approve any plan to allow the plant to operate beyond that date.

Edwards is worried that a federal plan to store high level wastes in Nevada will never be implemented – she says that means these wastes will be permanently stored near the Vernon plant.

(Edwards) “We have not really grasped the impact of keeping wastes on the shores of the Connecticut River. What I just outlined was the plan to allow us to be able to end that contract.”

(Kinzel) The Progressives say they also want to adopt policies to help improve the financial condition of many dairy farmers throughout the state.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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