Former lawmaker urges concerned citizens call senators
By Tom Koch
Well, as many have predicted, it’s back. What was called the Clean Heat Standard last year (vetoed by Governor Scott’s and sustained by just one vote) is now called the “Affordable Heat Act.” Of course, it’s anything but affordable, but no matter, if it sounds good, let’s use it!
Here it is, in all its glory. All 31 pages of it. Please, have a good read.
Okay. Now you know why you never wanted to run for the legislature! But I propose that those who have run and been elected have the obligation to read the bills they are voting for (I did) and understand what they were voting for (I did, mostly).
So, here’s the kicker. I propose that any legislator who has not read (and I mean “read,” not “scanned” or “perused”) S. 5 in full should be disqualified from voting on it. That in itself should mean that neither the House nor the Senate will have a quorum to enable the bill to pass!
And if that’s not enough, I further suggest that any legislator who has read the bill but does not thoroughly understand it and cannot explain it to the legislator’s constituents should also be disqualified.
Indeed, last week Senator Dick McCormack of Windsor County, normally a reliable vote for the Democrat majority, surprised everyone by describing the mechanism of the bill as a “Rube Goldberg,” and announced that he could not vote for a bill that he cannot explain to his constituents. Well, he must have had an epiphany, because on Friday he voted for the bill! The truth is that he was right the first time, because it’s probably easier to explain how crypto currency works than to explain how this bill will work. Or what it will cost.
This bill may be the worst piece of legislation that has been introduced in the last 30 years, and it ought to be overwhelmingly defeated. Keep an eye on how your senators and representatives vote.
Better yet, contact them before they vote, and let them know how you would like them to vote!
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A lot has been said about the FY 2023 federal budget. In the first place, it’s a true budget, not a continuing resolution, which would merely kick the ball down the road for a few months. And it was adopted on a bipartisan basis, which is a good thing.
What is not so good is that the bill saw the return of “earmarks”—special appropriations included in a bill by senators or representatives wielding their influence to fund designated projects in their home states or districts, i.e., “bringing home the bacon.”
One might rejoice in the fact that Senator Leahy was able to include $212 million in the bill for 38 projects in Vermont, while Senator Sanders was able to claim another $42 million to fund 51 projects. Out of that, Barre City is slated to receive at least $5.9 million, but Barre Town receives nothing, although I understand that the Town did not ask to be included in the gravy train.
The problem with this is that all this largesse is not paid for! A substantial part of this $1.7 trillion budget is covered by deficit spending, and while not all of the projected deficit for FY2023 is attributable to this one piece of legislation—and certainly not just to the earmarks—running the printing press to pay for these projects and increasing the national debt in this time of inflation is not a good idea.
Increase the national debt? The Congressional Budget Office last week estimated that the FY2023 deficit will be $1.4 trillion! But when did that matter to the members of Congress?
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And finally, just a brief comment on one of the most egregious examples of trying to buy votes with taxpayer money, the proposal to forgive all or portions of educational loans. Bernie Sanders campaigned shamelessly on it. Candidate Joe Biden was reluctant to endorse the idea. But as president, he has proposed forgiving loans up to $10,000.00 for every borrower, and up to $20,000.00 for those who had received Pell Grants (which are given to students in the lower income levels.)
One wonders where the president—any president—gets the authority to write off billions of dollars of debts owed to the government. At one point, President Biden said he didn’t have the authority to forgive all these debts, but that was before he decided to forgive them.
The decree forgiving these loans is being challenged in court by some who simply say that the President has exceeded his authority. Those defending the president claim that Congress has given the President the authority in the law declaring a national emergency due to COVID. The Supreme Court will have the last word, probably before it ends the current term in June.
We probably all know young people who can benefit from this generosity. That’s not the point. What about those students who struggled to make their payments faithfully, finally paid off their loans, and have no loan balance left to be forgiven? Is that fair? Is that right? Is it right for a student to take out a loan, find out that it’s a burden to make those pesky monthly payments, and then ask someone else (i.e., Joe Taxpayer) to pay off the rest of the loan? What expectations does that create for current and future high school students who are trying to figure out how to pay for college in the next few years?
I don’t have to answer those questions. Everyone knows the answers. Except, perhaps, politicians trying to buy votes with other people’s money.
Scribblings” originated as a report on legislative affairs while the writer was a member of the Vermont House of Representatives from Barre Town. Since then, it has been written less frequently and with less focus on the legislature and more of whatever happens to move the writer. If you are not on the distribution list and wish to be added, simply send your name, town of residence, and email address to TomKochVT@gmail.com. If you are currently on the distribution list and wish to be removed, make that request at the same address—no offense taken.