From: Mike Kanarick Subject: Re: a big win on guns Date


House Republicans say bills fall short of their goals for limited spending increases and no new taxes



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House Republicans say bills fall short of their goals for limited spending increases and no new taxes
NANCY REMSEN
MONTPELIER — House Speaker Shap Smith trumpeted the spending and revenue packages the House will consider this week as making critical investments while spending $18 million less and raising $6 million less in new taxes than Gov. Peter Shumlin had proposed.
 
Smith and House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Martha Heath, D-Westford, both declared the choices about new and expanded funding in the House $5.24 billion budget bill represent “investments that are good for Vermont’s future.”
Heath said those investments include $2.5 million more for higher education so Vermont college students graduate with less debt and $10.6 million in increased reimbursements to health care providers treating Vermonters with state subsidized health insurance, which reduces the shift of the cost of government health programs to the private insurance sector.
The Republican minority in the House will contest both the budget and tax bills, Republican House Leader Don Turner of Milton confirmed Tuesday.
“We want to try to show you could balance the budget without raising taxes,” Turner said. Debate on the tax bill begins Wednesday.
House Republicans had conveyed to Democratic leaders five goals they set for a budget they could support, Turner said. They wanted:
• A growth rate of less than 3 percent. Under the House plan, the General Fund portion of the budget grows by 4.7 percent and the total budget (including federal and other funds) grows by 4.4 percent.
• A limit on the increase in new positions — up to 30 if those were at the state psychiatric hospital. The House bill creates 66 positions.
• A reserve of $20 million to offset federal funding cuts. The House bill allocates $3.8 million.
• Funding of pensions and a plan to provide a funding stream for retired teachers’ health care. There is no plan.
• No new programs or expansions. The House bill included many initiatives that the governor proposed, such as higher childcare reimbursements and increased school lunch subsidies.
(Page 2 of 2)
Turner said the Republican caucus was disappointed that none of their goals were met in the budget that comes up for debate Thursday. “We really wanted to vote for the budget.”
New state jobsHeath spoke about the new positions the committee has recommended during a budget briefing Tuesday. The budget bill funds 64 new positions and changes two temporary slots into permanent positions — creating 13 fewer state jobs than the governor proposed.
Heath said the Appropriations Committee scrutinized all the position additions in the governor’s budget. The committee found it could eliminate some positions at the future state psychiatric hospital because they won’t be needed in the upcoming budget year.
The committee agreed with the administration’s request to add 17 positions in the Department for Children and Families, the department that will see the biggest jump in new jobs, Heath said.
“These are eligibility specialist positions,” she explained. “That is a place we cut too far,” she said, noting that the state workforce shrank during the recession.
The House bill went along with another concept that the governor proposed — capping the length of time a Vermont family could receive financial assistance under the Reach-Up program.
However, instead of going along with the administration’s proposal to shut off aid after 36 months with potential extensions to a total of 60 months, the Appropriations Committee set a limit at 60 months, with the possibility that “child-only grants” could continue. The bill also provides a longer transition for families who would face the cap in the next 12 months.
Rep. Anne O’Brien, D-Richmond, helped fashion the gentler House provisions and had explained to her Appropriations Committee colleagues Monday that “the goal is not to kick off but transition off” families facing the cap. She said the savings from cutting off families where heads of households haven’t met the program requirements would be invested in extra services to help cooperating families who were still struggling to enter the workforce.
The Reach-Up cap has been controversial and the compromise provisions in the House bill still fail to satisfy advocates for the poor.
Christopher Curtis, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid Inc., said any kind of cap “flies in the face of evidence” that these limits push families into seeking other kinds of government assistance. “There is a huge cost shift involved,” he said, as well as unsettling consequences for families plunged into difficult financial circumstances.
Smith acknowledged that the budget represents compromises and many lawmakers could find some choices in it that they don’t like. Still, he predicted, “We will have a strong vote” to pass the budget bill by the end of the week.
 
 
 
Begin forwarded message:

From: "Lindsay Siler, BarackObama.com" <info@barackobama.com>

Subject: Will you be one of the people fighting to reduce gun violence?

Date: March 26, 2013 12:56:39 PM EDT

To: <miroweinberger@gmail.com>

Reply-To: info@barackobama.com


Organizing for Action

Friend --

We're taking some big steps forward in the effort to reduce gun violence.

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More to come. For now, thanks.

Lindsay

Lindsay Siler
National Director of Issue Campaigns
Organizing for Action

----------------
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Begin forwarded message:



From: "Allen, Susan" <Susan.Allen@state.vt.us>

Subject: MEDIA CLIPS AND BLOG STORIES FOR TUESDAY, MARCH 26:

Date: March 26, 2013 6:39:54 AM EDT

To: "Allen, Susan" <Susan.Allen@state.vt.us>

BURLINGTON FREE PRESS (CON’T):
 
Arlington state representative Browning represents opposition from within
Rep. Cynthia Browning, a rogue Democrat, speaks up and stands out in a Legislature that is increasingly one-party rule
TERRI HALLENBECK
MONTPELIER — Last week on the House floor as Republicans put up a fight about a new gas tax, they were joined by one Democrat: Cynthia Browning.
 
Browning, in her seventh year as a House member from Arlington, knows no political party boundaries. She will pitch her ideas to anyone who will listen, join forces with anyone who agrees with her and stand up to her own party whenever she sees fit.
Last week she sought to make several changes to the gas tax, standing up on the House floor to speak up for alternatives that went down to defeat.
“This bill puts into place a large-scale, broad-based tax increase,” Browning said before voting against the new tax that she called “too complicated.”
With Democrats holding an ever-increasing majority in the House, Browning stands out even more now than she has in recent years. Gone this year is Oliver Olsen, a Jamaica Republican, who like Browning was a frequent and un-shy close-examiner of tax policies the past few years. Left to do the heavy lifting of challenging the majority are a number of Republicans, the occasional independent and Browning.
“There is no organized opposition,” Olsen said in a telephone interview on his way to Washington, D.C. “Cynthia is the opposition.”
Name virtually any bill that involves money (and few involve none) and Browning is all over it like sugar on snow, hauling out numbers to question assumptions made by those who’ve proposed a bill, proposing alternatives and pointing out discrepancies and hypocrisies.
Some examples:
• Last week, she challenged the gas tax on several fronts, including an amendment to limit the tax to one year.
• She’s been there the past several years questioning the cost of changes to health-care coverage.
• She was among those leading the charge last year against the Green Mountain Power-Central Vermont Public Service Corp. merger, including a call to return money CVPS ratepayers had loaned to the utility.
• She introduced a bill that would change the entire tax system by eliminating tax deductions and exemptions and redirecting the money to lower tax rates for everybody and pay for selected policy initiatives that have been given tax breaks.
(Page 2 of 4)
There is virtually no end to her thirst for taking on complicated issues. And though she rarely wins, Browning always affects the conversation.
“I’m not going to worry about actually getting something into law or changing the law,” she said. “My success is that I offer the idea.”
Browning said she’s still learning how to be most effective in influencing legislation, but going along to get along is not an approach she plans to consider.
Olsen, who was more apt to compromise than Browning is, said that’s harder for Browning. “She’s not a politician,” he said. “She is never going to compromise on what she believes.”
Olsen said he thinks Browning plays an important role in asking tough, educated questions, particularly given the diminishing ranks of Republicans in the Legislature. “She keeps the democratic process alive,” he said.
Last year when Browning took on the GMP-CVPS merger, she won a lot of support from fellow lawmakers. In the end, she and others failed to get GMP to return $21 million that CVPS ratepayers had loaned the utility, with the utilities arguing that the money would be returned through efficiency programs. Olsen said Browning nonetheless had an impact. “A lot of Vermonters realized they got ripped off and weren’t happy about it,” he said.
Browning, an economist whose career in academia sputtered because she wouldn’t follow the rules, knows she’s not popular among fellow Democrats in the Statehouse.
“I get on people’s nerves big time. I’m trying to be less confrontational. I’m trying to be calmer,” she said, but she also offered this perspective on her approach: “In sending me off to Montpelier every week my constituents never say to me, ‘Cynthia, be nice up there, get along and go along.’ They always say, ‘Give ’em hell.’”
As I took photos of Browning on the House floor and interviewed her for this story last week, two Democratic House members chided me (amicably) for giving her any publicity. Several were unwilling to speak on the record about her, not wanting to either criticize or elevate her.
 
(Page 3 of 4)
Rep. Jeff Wilson, D-Manchester, who shares a district with Browning, said some Democrats roll their eyes when they see her stand to speak on the floor, but he sees Browning’s questioning as an important part of the process.
“I think she actually plays a positive role by getting us to think different,” said Wilson, who serves on the House Ways & Means Committee, where Browning focuses some of her ideas.
Realistically, Wilson said, some of her ideas are not politically practical, including her idea of removing tax deductions, but the idea raises members’ consciousness as they consider tax policy. Several parts of the tax bill that the committee passed Friday remove tax exemptions and put a cap on deductions, Wilson noted.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt she does her research and tries to evaluate issues thoroughly,” Wilson said. “I don’t agree with a lot of things she does, but I give her credit with doing the work.”
House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown, would neither sing the praises of nor condemn Browning, sounding a bit like a teacher making report-card comments for a particularly precocious child.
“Sometimes she rubs me the wrong way, but that’s true of everybody in this building,” Smith said. “She certainly has the intellect to point out where she sees inconsistencies. Cynthia is still trying to figure out how to integrate pragmatism.”
House Republican Leader Don Turner of Milton is more appreciative of Browning’s efforts. “The bottom line is she wants to get the state’s fiscal house in order,” Turner said. “Cynthia definitely helps make that case.”
Few legislators have the time or financial expertise to question spending and tax policy the way Olsen did before he left the Legislature and the way Browning does, Turner said. “She works until she figures it out,” he said.
Along with the Republicans’ amendments on the gas tax, Browning’s also went nowhere. She hoped, she said, that her efforts in redirecting funding so that all gas-tax revenue goes to the Transportation Fund eventually will take hold.
 
(Page 4 of 4)
For Browning, it’s all about economics.
Browning, 59, grew up around the country as an Air Force child. She went to Bennington College thinking she would study art but fell in love with economics, in which she earned a master’s and a doctorate at the University of Michigan. She worked at the Brookings Institute before turning to teaching college economics.
She said she failed to earn tenure at Bates College in Maine, then went on to Smith and Williams colleges. While the colleges grew more prestigious at each stop, the positions were less so, she said. She jokes that at that rate she would have ended up at Harvard but as a lab assistant.
In 1998, she moved to Arlington, where she said her grandparents have owned a house since 1941. She ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate against Republican Mark Shepard in 2004, then won a seat in the House in the 2006 election. She also serves on the Arlington Selectboard.
She won re-election last year without opposition in a district that was altered during redistricting. Browning said she can’t help but think her willingness to speak up against Democratic bills made them more willing to redistrict her.
Smith, the House speaker, counters that if they’d really been set on redistricting Browning out of a job they could have put her in a district where there was another incumbent Democrat running.
Browning said she was threatened in her first term of being thrown out of the Democratic caucus. “I said, ‘Go ahead,’” she said.
Browning said she sees herself as a good Democrat. “Some people say, ‘Why don’t you just become a Republican?’ I don’t think I fit there either. I think I’m a conservative Democrat and I care about honesty in fiscal matters more than I care about political convenience, and I care about evidence-based policies. I don’t see that a lot.”
 
 
Budget bill advances along party lines
NANCY REMSEN
The four Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee failed to recommend the budget bill the panel has worked on for months.
 
The tally on the bill was 7-4, with all the Democrats supporting the bill.
Rep. Albert “Chuck” Pearce, R-Richford, said his vote reflected his unease with the tax bill that helps pay for the budget, not the spending decisions the Appropriations Committee made.
Interestingly, the Shumlin administration has the same take on the budget bill. Finance Commissioner Jim Reardon said the committee “did good work” on the spending plan, incorporating much that the governor had recommended. He cited higher education, low income heating assistance and working landscape investments as some of the governor’s spending priorities that the House bill agreed to do.
“The area of concern, obviously, is how they finance this budget,” Reardon said.
There were no hard feelings Monday after the committee voted. Chairwoman Martha Heath, D-Westford, thanked everyone. “Whether you voted for or against the budget, you all contributed 100 percent.”
The full House will debate the budget bill Thursday and Friday.
 
 
BLOGS:
 
GREEN MOUNTAIN DAILY:
 
The thing about Senate Bill 30
by: jvwalt
Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 03:46:11 AM EDT
 
As our Distinguished Solons prepare to enter their noble chamber for a learned discourse on the subject of S.30, I'd just like to point out that the whole thing is a waste of time.
Senate Bill 30 used to be called the "wind moratorium bill" until its sponsors stripped out the moratorium because they knew the bill didn't stand a snowball's chance of going anywhere. But the reduced S.30 still contained new restrictions on wind and other renewable energy projects, plus a heapin' helpin' of anti-wind rhetoric in the "Findings" section.
 
And last week, as the Showdown in the Senate approached, the sponsors (a) postponed the vote until today, and (b) further diluted the bill in hopes of dragging its corpse across the finish line. The anti-wind "Findings" were expunged and replaced with neutral language. And a significant change, not reported at the time, was made to the bill's mandate that new energy projects be subject to the Act 250 review process.
 
The current S.30 dumps the Act 250 review mandate. The process would remain wholly within the purview of the Public Service Board. But the PSB would be directed to apply the criteria of Act 250.
 
So here's the thing about the latest iteration of S.30: it's pretty much useless, except as a feel-good measure for the Windies. 
 
As I reported last week, most of the stuff in S.30 is already on the books. And the studies mandated by S.30 have all been done before. Some of them on multiple occasions.
In that case, I can almost hear the Windies saying, why not support S.30?
 
Well, even in its watered-down state, it does seek to tip the balance against new wind projects. it would also waste $75,000 of taxpayer money replicating previously-conducted studies. It would create a special legislative committee that, knowing the Senate leadership's proclivities, will include at least three anti-wind voices. (That's half the committee, and that's a recipe for gridlock.)
 
And, the longer this goes on, the more legislative time is taken up with a bill that's going nowhere. We already know the House isn't touching it, and Governor Shumlin is opposed to it.  
 
I'm heartened by the fact that the Senate Windies have had to throw out the bulk of their anti-wind wish list. But at this point, the best thing is to just drive a stake in S.30 and move on to more meaningful things. 
 
 
The further adventures of John MacGovern, self-appointed Avenging Angel of Vermont conservatism
by: jvwalt
Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 02:57:29 AM EDT
 
I've got to hand it to John MacGovern. A lesser man would have been discouraged by the absolute whomping he absorbed at the hands of Bernie Sanders last November. But not our hapless Republican nominee, no sirree bob. Like Wile E. Coyote reaching for the Acme catalog after blowing himself up, MacGovern has emerged from the crater of his campaign and is ready to continue the fight against Bernie's Socialist perfidy.
But to do that, ahem, he'll need your help.
 
See, somehow this true-blue fiscal conservative ended his no-hoper Senate campaign $35,000 in the red, according to Federal Election Commission reports. (Must have been all those Acme orders.)
 
That's $35,000 out of a total budget of $150,000. Oops.
 
So yeah, he needs your help.
 
This month, MacGoo has sent not one, but two fundraising appeals to everyone on his donor list.
 
The first is a garden-variety money pitch that includes this intriguing promise:
 
Right now, I am busy getting ready to re-enter the arena and continue the battle we began last year.

See, losing to Bernie by a 71-25 margin was Phase One of his cunning plan. And as soon as he pays off his outstanding balance with Acme Corporation, he'll be ready to launch Phase Two.


 
But -- and stop me if you've heard this -- to do that, he'll need your help.
 
The brief fundraiser includes the standard artificially-generated urgency:
 
At the end of the month, I have to report how much money I have raised to retire my debt.  Will you stand with me as I work to meet this critical deadline?
And if we do Stand With MacGoo, what will he do? 
 
Well, here's what: He'll fight against that old shibboleth, the United Nations Small Arms Treaty that'll allow the One World Militia to invade your home and confiscate your guns!
No, really. That's the pitch in MacGoo's second letter, which begins with the big bold headline: "Under the cover of night, at 3am (sic) in the U.S. Senate..."  And continues thusly:
 
 
Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) introduced an amendment to the first Senate budget in 4 years which would STOP the U.S. from signing on to the U.N. Small Arms treaty.  Although the Senate PASSED the amendment (53-46), prohibiting us from surrendering our rights to the UN, Vermont's own Bernie Sanders cast his vote in SUPPORT of the UN and against the rights of gun owners in Vermont and throughout our great nation.
Sanders is spitting in the face of Vermont gun owners who once helped to elect him!  Not only did he vote in favor of greater restrictions on guns, including the possibility of full registration, but in the same vote he showed his support of yielding U.S. Sovereignty to the United Nations.
 
And then the pitch: "Please help me to get the word out by making a quick donation!"
 
Shameless, absolutely shameless.
 
But then, MacGoo is a veteran practitioner of this peculiarly right-wing scam: Supporting himself by convincing credulous rich people to "help him fight" sone imaginary battle. See, back in 2002, MacGoo founded The Hanover Institute, a nonprofit organization designed to stir up conservative Dartmouth alums about the liberal perfidy of college administrators. (You know, like admitting female students or dropping the "Indians" name for its athletic teams.) Or, as the Institute oh-so inartfully described itself in its 2010 IRS filing:
 
As you can see, if you can read the incompetently-typed small print, the Institute's real mission was circular in nature: (1) getting donors to underwrite the costs of (2) MacGoo's salary and expenses and (3) distributing "information" aimed at (1) getting donors to underwrite the costs of (2) MacGoo's salary... lather, rinse, repeat.
 
The Institute filed a couple of high-profile lawsuits against Dartmouth College in 2005 and 2007, and lost 'em both. A promised third lawsuit never materialized. The Hanover Institute appears to be defunct; its website is offline, and it hasn't filed with the IRS since 2010. Presumably the rich alumni got wise to the scam, so John moved to the next one: "fighting" Bernie Sanders and the One World Government.
 
Well, y'know, a guy's gotta make a living.
 
So if you've got some extra cash lying around, and don't feel like setting it on fire or throwing it down a rat hole, might I remind you that John MacGoo needs your help? 
 
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