Legislature at an Impasse on Act 60 Reform
05/23/02 12:00AM By Bob Kinzel
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(Host) House and Senate negotiators working on a compromise plan to change Act 60 hit an impasse on Wednesday afternoon and the issue could be dead for the session.
VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) The fight between the House and the Senate over possible changes to Act 60 essentially boils down to one major issue : how much sharing of local revenue should property wealthy towns be required to do?
House members want to reduce the current amount by eliminating the sharing pool of Act 60. But Senate members argue that sharing is a key part of the Brigham decision and they're only willing to provide a temporary transition for the property wealthy communities.
Under the Senate proposal drafted by Senate Finance Chair Peter Shumlin, a town's statewide property tax rate would increase if the community spends more money than the state block grant of $7,000 per student. Shumlin told members of the House conference committee that any plan to further reduce sharing would result in a lawsuit and further divide the state over this issue:
(Shumlin) "But I think what it does is that it puts us back in the fight that we're all trying to bring peace to. We need to have peace around the question of school funding so that we can move forward on the issues of quality."
(Kinzel) But House Ways and Means Chairman Dick Marron says the Senate plan still asks property wealthy towns to share too much of their local revenue:
(Marron) "That's just more sharing. So to say that you're going, that this transition saves the property wealthy towns $12 million is really- it's quite imaginative and creative. I give you credit for that."
(Kinzel) Shumlin challenged the House conferees to take the Senate plan to the floor of the House for a vote ¿ Shumlin predicted it would pass:
(Shumlin) "We think if we put this to a vote in the Legislature, we firmly believe that it would prevail because it's so much better than the system that we have in place right now."
(Kinzel) To the surprise of many people, Representative Marron agreed that a majority of House members would probably support the Senate plan, but Marron said that option isn't going to take place:
(Marron) "Sure if you're taking a lot of money out of a few towns and putting it into a lot of towns that's always a nice way for things to be done and you could probably get enough votes to pass something like that. But I think that's not going to end the divisiveness that exists in the state right now."
(Kinzel) Shumlin and Marron said they would continue to discuss Act 60 as they meet in the hallways of the Statehouse but they said they would only schedule another meeting if a new approach could be developed.
For Vermont Public Radio, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.