Advocates ask “whose side is the governor on?”
Groups call on Gov. Scott to side with Vermonters over corporate interests.
For immediate release: May 17, 2018
MONTPELIER, Vt. — A diverse group of advocates and organizations called on Governor Phil Scott to stand with Vermonters over corporate interests at a press conference on Thursday.
Groups representing a wide array of backgrounds ranging from small business owners to environmental advocates stood together with a single message: “Whose side is the governor really on?”
“Governor Scott has a chance to show that his commitment to a safer, cleaner, healthier, more prosperous Vermont is more than just campaign rhetoric,” said Lauren Hierl, executive director of Vermont Conservation Voters. “Governor, before you wield your veto pen once again, and disregard the work of legislators who have passed these measures on behalf of all Vermonters, please ask yourself: whose side am I on?”
Representatives from the Vermont Natural Resources Council, Main Street Alliance of Vermont, VPIRG, Vermont Interfaith Action, ACLU-VT, Vermont Conservation Voters, Vermont NEA, Justice For All, Community Action Works, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, the Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club and Voices for Vermont’s Children were on hand for Thursday’s event and echoed a message that moving forward in Vermont means building a state and local economy that works for all Vermonters, not just the wealthiest.
The groups at the press conference outlined a slate of issues such as paid family leave, clean water funding, consumer protection legislation, and increasing the minimum wage that would make investments in Vermonters and protect the health and wellbeing of the state’s communities. Many of these priorities face the threat of a veto from Gov. Scott.
Numerous speakers called on the governor to support and sign specific pieces of legislation passed by the legislature in 2018:
Paid Family Leave
The paid family leave bill, H.196, would give Vermonters access to paid time off to welcome a new child or care for an ill or injured family member and was a priority for small businesses during the legislative session.
“This program would allow Vermont’s small businesses to thrive and become stronger, more competitive employers.” Nicole Grenier, owner of Stowe Street Cafe said. “Gov Scott: by vetoing the paid family leave bill, you will be sending a clear message that our small businesses, our employees and their families do not deserve the same shot at success as large corporations, and believe me, Vermont is listening.”
Raising the Minimum Wage
The minimum wage bill, S.40 would gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2024, aligning it more closely with what economists have determined is the “livable wage” in Vermont.
“Economic security is the foundation of a healthy childhood” according to Michelle Fay, Executive Director of Voices for Vermont’s Children. “Supporting family economic security must be a priority for Vermont. That means raising the floor for low-wage workers by putting the minimum wage on a path to becoming a livable wage. Vetoing the minimum wage bill is the wrong move if Governor Scott truly wants to make a difference for the most vulnerable Vermonters.”
Bottle Bill Deposits
Vermont is one of the few states that gives its unclaimed Bottle Bill deposits – valued at more than $2 million per year – to beverage manufacturers and distributors. Under S.285, the State would recapture those unclaimed deposits and use them for clean water programs.
“The choice on what to do with unclaimed Bottle Bill deposits could not be clearer,” said Paul Burns, executive director of VPIRG. “We could use the millions of dollars to help fund vital clean water programs in Vermont, or the governor could give it all away to Coca-Cola and others in the beverage industry.”
“The dispossessed of this state continue to struggle with matters as basic as clean water. Folks should not have to live without clean water in the richest nation on this planet, nor should they do so when a state chooses not to make it a priority, Mark Hughes, Executive Director, Justice For All said. “These funds and any and all other funds required must be used to satisfy this basic necessity. It is immoral to provide anything less and none of us should rest until it becomes a reality.”
“The Sierra Club believes that protecting natural and human resources is good governance,” Robb Kidd, Conservation Program Manager, Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club said. “We don’t believe that a budget with tri-partisan support should be derailed for political purposes. We would rather see Vermont coming together to protect the most vulnerable and to finding solutions to clean our polluted waters.”
On the issue of digital privacy, VPIRG applauded the legislature’s passage of the so-called data broker bill (H.764).
“This bill will give Vermonters more information about who is buying and selling their data, require data brokers to adopt a minimum security standard to limit future breaches, like Equifax, and eliminate the fees Vermonters have to pay to place a security freeze on their credit histories.” Zachary Tomanelli, VPIRG communications director said. “We urge the governor to side with Vermonters instead of data giants and sign H.764.”
On the issue of who pays for the harms caused by toxic contamination, S.197:
“This bill gives the Governor a clear choice – who should pay for the costs of toxic contamination: the polluter, or the innocent victim of the contamination?” said Jon Groveman, VNRC policy and water program director. “VNRC urges Governor Scott to side with Vermonters and taxpayers, not big corporations. We urge him to live up to his pledge to help vulnerable Vermonters by signing S.197 into law.”
“The net neutrality bill firmly positions Vermont on the side of Internet freedom and openness by ensuring the state only contracts with providers that abide by net neutrality principles,” Chloe White, policy director for ACLU-VT said. “With this bill, Vermont will join a national chorus of states that are loudly and clearly announcing that the rollback of net neutrality is unacceptable.
“With 97 percent of towns approving their school budgets, it’s clear whose side Vermonters are on when it comes to investing in our children,” said Martha Allen, a K-12 librarian who serves as president of Vermont-NEA. “It’s too bad that Gov. Scott would rather play politics than do what’s right for Vermont’s future.”