Press

All the latest news, press releases, and commentary from Heidi E. Scheuermann.

As expected, two weeks ago, the Vermont House passed a Fiscal Year 2018 Budget that does not rely on any new or increased taxes and fees.  As I said at the time, I don't recall the last time I voted for a budget – it certainly has been years if I have – but, I was pleased to lend my support to it this year.

My goal throughout my years in the House has been to start to rein in our state spending and live within our means.  I have long felt that we can create responsible state budgets that increase investments in certain areas, find efficiencies in state government and its programs and services, reduce spending where responsible, and protect the most vulnerable – all without raising taxes and fees.  And, while I probably would have made some different decisions in this particular budget, the Appropriations Committee has started us down the path to fiscal responsibility.

With just seven weeks remaining in the 2017 Legislative Session, there remains a great deal to do.  And, while much of what might be on the horizon is problematic, there is some good news to report.

One of the most challenging tasks before us this year – to develop a budget without increasing taxes and fees – seems to be relatively on track, at least on the part of the House.

While the budget that will be presented to the full Vermont House this week has not been completed as of this writing, from all reports, it will be a budget that does not rely on any new taxes or fees.  This is very good news!

In all of my years in the House, I do not recall a time when the Democratic leadership in the House did not fight for (and pass) significantly increased revenues to pay for significantly increased spending.  This year, however, with Governor Phil Scott in the corner office, it has been made clear that a veto is imminent if it increases taxes and fees on Vermonters.

As Vermont Legislators return to Montpelier this week after the Town Meeting Day break, there are a number of items on the docket.  I, for one, am hopeful that one of them is going to be significant progress on the important issue of independent contractors.  Specifically, I would like to see progress on H. 119, a bill I introduced with a bipartisan group of cosponsors.

 

As Vermonters know very well, our state has a long tradition of independence.  One manifestation of that independence throughout the years has been in work. 

 

For greater flexibility and autonomy, and greater control over their destinies, many Vermonters have chosen to work for themselves, and be what we now call independent contractors.

 

Over the course of the years, conflict has arisen with our worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance laws.  In the past, this conflict has mostly been in the construction industry – with general contractors hiring sub contractors to do specific parts of the job.  The Department of Labor or insurance companies themselves then determine through an audit that a subcontractor should have been classified as an employee.

 

This conflict has now reared its head in our new economy as well.  This new 21st century economy is fast growing, but is very different.  Instead of the traditional economy of an employer with many employees, in many ways it is an independent workforce coming together to collaborate on projects.

Couple this with the sharing economy, and we’ve got a new kind of independent workforce around which we must tailor our laws. 

 Every state in the country is trying to address this issue, but I have fought for years to have Vermont lead the charge.  If we can position ourselves as the place to come to work both independently and collaboratively, and do so successfully, we can attract this new workforce and start to address our significant demographic challenges.

One critical way to do this is to establish a common definition for independent contractor under both workers compensation and unemployment insurance.  This would do three things:  1) alleviate some of the incredible confusion among employers surrounding the various definitions and bring absolute clarity to the definition; 2) encourage and grow the independent workforce; and 3) ensure that those who should be classified as employees are classified as such by their employers.