A brief report this week before carefully heading home – drive safe out there!
Framing the Paid Family Leave Discussion
This year, it seems the legislature will be debating whether or not to augment the newly enacted paid family leave private plan for state employees that all businesses and workers will eventually be allowed to opt in to. That plan will provide six weeks off, with a 60% wage replacement. The legislature’s bill to improve on that plan has not yet been introduced, but a story in VTDigger reporting on development of the bill lies below.
In past years I have not voted in support of legislative bills for paid family leave because of the payroll tax required to pay for it. To be clear, I am not automatically opposed to a payroll tax providing benefits for workers. However, I am opposed to creating major financial liabilities and implications as a result of moving benefits/entitlements/human rights policies forward – but not providing sustainable funding for those policies.
I would likely support a payroll tax to ensure affordable healthcare access and coverage for all Vermonters. A decade ago, Vermont tried to move by itself to institute universal healthcare by itself, and as a result, created expensive state level regulatory and monitoring structures like the Green Mount Care Board and the ACO. We learned that Vermont’s very small and aging demographic can not support a single state universal healthcare system. Now we have expensive state level regulatory programs and less access and no sustainable funding to pay for the regulation or ease rates. I believe we should fix this system before moving to the next employee benefit program that needs a payroll tax.
I’d like to hear from you on the costs of healthcare and the paid family leave proposals – please reach out!
- Vermont State employees 60 percent wage replacement for six weeks for qualifying events starting in July 2023.
- Democratic bill would guarantee 12 weeks paid family and medical leave to all Vermont workers
Open Enrollment Period Ends Sunday January 15th
There is still time to sign up or change plans through Vermont Health Connect for 2023 health insurance coverage! This deadline does not apply to you if you have Medicaid.
The Vermont Health Connect Open Enrollment Period ends on January 15th. Call Vermont Health Connect at 855-899-9600 to switch plans or sign up for health insurance. Their Customer Support Center will have extended hours:
- 1/11-1/13, from 8 AM-6:30 PM
- 1/14-1/15, from 8 AM-12 PM
You can also visit www.VermontHealthConnect.gov
If you run into any issues signing up or if you have questions about your options, you can contact the Office of the Health Care Advocate at 1-800-917-7787 or visit www.vtlawhelp.org/health. The Office of the Health Care Advocate is a free resource for any Vermont resident with health insurance or access to care issues.
Legislative updates from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns Week 2 and Week 3
GMP Launching Programs to Help Low-Income Customers Save by Expanding Cost-Effective Solar in Vermont
Green Mountain Power (GMP) announced it is launching two programs to connect income-qualified customers with solar energy that has too often been out of reach for them. The Shared Solar Program (SSP) unlocks incentives in the federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to create a qualified low-income program that saves participants money. Another program, the Affordable Community Renewable Energy (ACRE) Pilot, will use a state grant so eligible customers can take part in new Vermont solar projects, providing them discounts for five years.
The projects built for this program will be some of the first in Vermont sparked by the renewable energy provisions of the IRA and state recovery funds. GMP will also look to add energy storage to the projects to create more benefits for all customers, increasing resiliency, strengthening the grid, and further lowering costs.
The monthly savings for qualified customers will be in addition to discounts that customers can already receive through GMP’s energy assistance program (EAP). The funding from the federal and state programs allows GMP to flow through discounts to participants while adding new solar at no increased cost, which further enhances the equity of these programs for all customers. GMP plans to start enrolling customers for solar savings as soon as this summer with projects starting to generate power by the end of the year.
GMP opened its request for proposals (RFP) from solar developers for the Shared Solar Program in December 2022, and the window to file proposals closes January 26, 2023. GMP received the ACRE grant award notice from the state in December. GMP filed plans with Vermont regulators for both the Shared Solar and ACRE programs this week. Combined, the two programs equal at least 40MW of new cost-effective solar, enough to power about 11,000 homes for a year. Each program provides a path for federal funds that are intended to incentivize expansion of renewable energy production to directly benefit low-income customers.
More information for solar developers interested in participating is available in the “What’s New” section of GMP’s Regulatory page.
The Atlantic: The Obvious Answer to Homelessness ~ And why everyone’s ignoring it
By Jerusalem Demsas
Environment and Energy Presentations of the Week
The legislature asks for study committees and updates on many different policy areas. Of particular notice to our district, is the just been released report on the Income Based Education Tax Committee and the Vermont Legislative Climate Council Report for 2022.
- Longtime school leader named to state education board
- Lawmakers from county named to leadership posts
- Many second homeowners pay a lower tax rate than residents. Will the Legislature change that?
- In a season impacted by patterns of climate change, ski areas work to be ‘adaptable’
- Cyberattack takes down land-records management system used by many Vermont towns
Monitor the bills I am sponsoring and recorded roll call votes. This week I sponsored a bill which would exempt the state active duty subsistence and quarters allowance paid to resident and nonresident members of the National Guard from income tax in Vermont.
|H.26||An act relating to an income tax exemption for members of the National Guard|
As always, if you have suggestions, concerns or critiques please be in touch so we can schedule time to discuss. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow my regular posts online at http://www.laurasibiliavt.com
Rep. Laura Sibilia – Dover, Jamaica, Somerset, Stratton, Wardsboro