State House Report, February 12th

Health Care Reform Bill Takes Shape

VBSR: High health care costs are hurting the Vermont business community.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee’s efforts to reform the state’s health care system by creating a universal primary care system began to take real shape last week at the State House.

S.53, the committee bill establishing a universal primary care system, was heavily revised last week, with senators adding language that would begin the work needed to create this public benefit and how to pay for it.

Among the major changes proposed for the bill:

  • It taps into surplus revenue generated by Vermont hospitals each year, taking 50% of those funds to begin the universal primary care fund. Sen. Claire Ayer, the committee chair, said additional and more stable funds would be needed to finance the larger system change. In 2016, Vermont hospitals generated $27.8 million in surplus revenues.
  • Calls on all health care stakeholders to develop and submit plans of “preliminary operation” of a universal primary care system by December 2018. The Governor’s administration would then review the plans the following month.

VBSR supports the creation of a universal primary care system as a manageable first step toward larger health care reform. The employment-based health care system hurts businesses that pay for employee health insurance. Vermont needs to invest in programs that have positive health outcomes and can bend the cost curve in the long-term.

Read VBSR’s testimony to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee from earlier this year.

VBSR’s 2018 Legislative Reception is this Thursday!

Registration for VBSR’s  
2018 Legislative Reception 
is now open!

Come learn about issues affecting your business and community, and learn what VBSR is doing to further a business voice benefiting people, planet and profit.

Held just down the street from the Vermont State House in Montpelier, this event draws nearly 200 of the state’s most exciting business leaders, policy-makers, and state officials.   This event is free for VBSR members, legislators, and state officials, and $10 for non-members. If you are paying by credit card, please pay at the event.

Event Details:
When: February 15, 2018 5:00 pm
Location: Montpelier Room, Capitol Plaza, 100 State St., Montpelier

Cost To Attend:
Nonmembers – $10
VBSR Members – Free

VBSR’s 2018 Legislative Reception is sponsored by The Alchemist, Bluehouse Group, Green Mountain Power, National Life Group, Paul Frank + Collins, Rights & Democracy, Washington Electric Cooperative, and WrightJones PLC.

Register today!

Two House Committees Consider Carbon Pricing Proposals

Two House committees held hearings last week on proposals to put a price on carbon pollution as the ESSEX Plan proposal continues to gain steam with legislators and the business community.

The House Energy and Technology Committee held hearings on H. 791 – An act relating to a carbon charge that is refunded on electric bills.

The House Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife Committee held hearings on H. 763 – An act relating to a study of approaches to greenhouse gas reduction.

Additionally, VBSR member Burton Snowboards held a forum featuring leaders in winter sports and the business community to discuss the need for carbon pricing in response to climate change. Participating in the forum were Donna Carpenter, CEO of Burton; Mario Molino of Protect Our Winters; Chris Miller of Ben & Jerry’s; Louise Lintilhac, Professional skier; and Tom Hughes, Energy Independent Vermont Campaign Director. You can watch the video by clicking on the photo above.

Concerned about Child Care? Learn More on Call this Friday

RSVP for a 2/16 legislative update call on funding for Vermont’s Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP) to support Vermont’s economy. Hosted by Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, Main Street Alliance, Vermont Early Childhood Advocacy Alliance, and Let’s Grow Kids.

Child Care – An Update from the State House
Friday, February 16
Noon – 1 PM

CCFAP is a state program that makes it possible for many Vermont families to enroll their children in quality child care programs while parents work. However, funding for the program has not kept pace with increasing child care costs, limiting parents’ ability to access quality child care programs and affecting employers’ ability to recruit and retain workers.

Join a call on Friday, February 16th from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm to discuss the challenges faced by employers and employees and to learn about a legislative proposal to invest in the program. RSVP to Dan Barlow at danielb@vbsr.org or Ashley Moore at ashley@mainstreetalliance.org.

Use the following call information:
1 (224) 501-3412
Access Code: 659-690-149

Click here for background information and resources on the issue.

Senate Committee OK’s Minimum Wage Increase

The Senate Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs Committee approved S.40, an act relating to increasing the minimum wage, last week. S.40 will increase the minimum wage in Vermont to $15 per hour by 2024.

S.40 aims to decrease income disparity and allow Vermonters to move out of poverty. Vermont’s current minimum wage of $10.50 per hour is well behind Vermont’s livable wage of $13.00 per hour. Under S.40, the hourly minimum wage will steadily increase over the next six years:

$11.10 in 2019;
$11.75 in 2020;
$12.50 in 2021;
$13.25 in 2022;
$14.10 in 2023; 
$15.00 in 2024.

S.40 will also increase the limits for those eligible for childcare financial assistance programs and create a committee in 2023 to report changes in inflation rates as it relates to the increased minimum wage.

Raising the minimum wage would affect individual qualifications for those receiving state and federal benefits. As wages increase, a reduced number of people would be reliant on Vermont public benefit programs. This would also cause a reduced amount of federal aid from entering the state. One major impact of this may be that families will no longer be eligible for the childcare financial assistance programs that they depend upon. To offset this potential, S.40 will increase the “line” for those who are qualified for childcare financial assistance programs. This would allow those currently in the program to continue qualifying for childcare financial assistance programs, while also allowing new Vermont residents, who may previously not have qualified for the childcare subsidies, to enter the program.

The wage increase will benefit around 76,000 people directly, with almost 90,000 Vermonters feeling positive ripple effects. Beneficial impacts to the state could include more spending power within communities and an increased demand for goods and services. Further, employers may see reduced job turnovers as those with a higher wage feel more valued and committed to their place of work.

VBSR believes S.40 is a fair compromise that will get Vermont to a living wage faster than current law while also recognizing the significant contributions that businesses already make in terms of wages and benefits to employees. The bill is expected to be on the Senate floor this week after a brief review by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Read VBSR’s letter in support of the bill to the Vermont Senate.

Interested in VBSR Policy? Get involved today

The voice of socially responsible businesses in public policy debates is now more important than ever.

Part of VBSR’s mission is to support socially responsible businesses and help them succeed. One way we can do that is energize the voice of SR businesses in Vermont and bring that perspective to policy debates at the Vermont State House.

Download VBSR’s 2018 legislative agenda.

Contact VBSR Public Policy Manager Daniel Barlow for more details on how to get involved with VBSR policy.

OTHER UPCOMING EVENTS

February 15
VBSR’s Legislative Reception
(Montpelier)  
Registration now open!