The proposal by Vermont Governor Phil Scott for the state to negotiate a health care contract for the state’s educators warrants consideration.
The governor suggests that there may be as much as $26 million in taxpayer savings by having the state negotiate this contract.
The proposal has immediately piqued the ire of the Vermont-NEA and some Democratic lawmakers who argue that there’s no real evidence that the savings will materialize and that it strips towns of local control and strips teachers of their right to bargain collectively.
When the proposal was voted on by the House it garnered the support of more than half of the Democrats in the democratically controlled House. It lost by only one vote and, in fact, was sponsored by an Independent as well as a Democrat and a Republican.
As Scott has proposed it – the state will negotiate a health care plan on behalf of all teachers that requires teachers to pay 20 percent of their premium costs. The negotiated plan may change teachers’ out-of-pocket costs.
To keep teachers whole, the Scott proposal would take $50 million of the estimated $75 million in savings to give back to teachers to offset changes in out-of-pocket as well as increased premium costs.
Are there uncertainties about how much in savings would actually be realized? Yes, of course. Can those questions be answered? Again, yes of course.
Any proposal by a Republican governor that garners so much support from House Democrats needs to be taken seriously. The cost of education taxes in Vermont is a real source of voter angst and our elected officials need to take action. This is a proposal that could provide some relief. The cost of health care for our educators is a critical part of the cost of education in our state.
Very importantly, this proposal does take care of teachers, many of whom accept lower paying jobs that come with the trade-off of excellent and affordable health care.
The teachers’ union is strong and will fight this tooth and nail. Let’s hope the proponents in the Legislature and administration will be as ferocious.