Its On The State To Make It Up

VERMONT'S-Democratic Party is trying to tackle a long time problem that has been stretching out for years due to under funding. "We cannot ignore this situation any longer, we must act," Democratic House speaker Jill Krowinski said on April 2nd.

 

The Vermont State Pension System, which is a retirement fund built for Vermont State employees. It has now risen to a 5.6 billion dollar deficit, due to insufficient funding. House Speaker Krowinski has been trying to find a solution along with Vermont's other Legislative leaders to make up for the funds. Some ideas have been thrown out on the table so far, including an idea that will affect Vermont's unauthorized state employees and teachers.

This plan would have asked teachers and state employees to work longer hours, with no benefits. That would have cost school workers 300 million dollars and state employees 200 million dollars. It also talked about increasing retirement age, making older folks work longer years. But Krowinski decided not to go through with the plan, due to the amount of backlash from the affected groups.

Vermont's State Teachers are taking this proposed plan a little more personal. The Union of Vermont Educators believes that this is a dig at our educators around Vermont, especially after just going through a pandemic. Teaching in a non-school environment is harder for many teachers, especially when all communication is online.

"I think one of the things that teachers, as well as our organizations saw was like, wait a minute. You're asking us as teachers to make up for your mistakes? So you know, that is fundamentally unfair," National Education Association President, Donald Tinney explained. He also talks about older teachers having to switch their retirement plans around, working another 10 years. This is something that teachers did not plan for in the first place.

The best solution at this point is to pull covid relief funds, as well as pulling out general fund money to cover the costs. Krowinski has set aside 150 Million dollars that could be used for a one time possible payment to deduct the big number. She says that employee contributions should stay the same, regardless of the funds performance. The state is required to make up the difference when the fund under performs.

"That's why I really wanted to make a stand, and let Vermonters know that we have a serious problem," Krowinski explained. The Government Operations Committee is now working on creating a pension task force to get the ball rolling. Krowinski wants the new task force to focus on investment decisions, and where the state is spending its pension money.

"We are talking about people's economic security, and especially during a pandemic it's just hard. Change is hard, and I think there was some misinformation out there about what we were talking about. Some people thought that was the plan that was going to vote, and that was not the case," Krowinski explained. She now wants the Operations Committee to throw some more ideas onto the table.

The Committee would like Governor Phill Scott to be at the table during these discussions, but it does not seem to be on the Governors agenda. "The Governor is not leading on this issue, and he's sending very mixed signals. To say we need a plan, but you don't have a plan, that is just not helpful. We will be asking him to join us at the table, with this task force. It is important that he is part of this," Krowinski says.

Governor Phill Scott commented on being part of the table at the April 2nd Press Conference, and his response seems to be the same. "In terms of being at the table, I've been at the table for the last four years. I've talked about this publicly, I've talked about it with the leadership, the House and the Senate. I am a willing partner. I will be at the table, I don't want to be the main course," He explained. He then points to the fact that this is the time for the Democratic Party to shine, and come up with a solution.