Was School Board’s computer purchase extravagant?

Editor of the Reformer:

The five-member Vernon School Board spent public funds to buy themselves Apple MacBook Air laptop computers, as they confirmed during a Jan. 29 public hearing about their budget. According to Apple’s Website, the MacBook Air laptop retails for $999 to $1,849.

They said that they need to consult, create and share Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and Microsoft Word documents, as they can via any personal computer equipped with Microsoft Office, if not already owned, at much lower cost in public funds. On the other hand, in our online electronic world, should members of school and selectboards be out-of-pocket for a now essential tool, even if its principal use is for their work and leisure? Purchased with public funds, these computers are publicly owned.

Public opinion should decide after hearing and questioning the Vernon School Board at town meeting.

Howard Fairman,

Vernon, Jan. 30

Explanation needed for ‘Shumlincare’ funding

Editor of the Reformer:

Please see Sen. Galbraith on single-payer finance (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGfzGFBaDDQ).

The senator has introduced S.252 in the Vermont Senate as proposed financing of ShumlinCare (Green Mountain Care). It seems Galbraith is calling Gov. Peter Shumlin’s bluff.

Act 48, Sec. 9. Financing Plans directs that financing plans be prepared and submitted to the Legislature by Jan. 15, 2013, reads "(A) The secretary of administration or designee shall recommend two plans for sustainable financing to the house committees on health care and on ways and means and the senate committees on health and welfare and on finance no later than January 15, 2013."

This is a law which the governor continues to ignore. He continues to refuse to release a study paid for by taxpayers which, reportedly, shows that Shumlincare is not fundable. Unfortunately, when a legislative body is of the same party as the governor, they set aside their responsibility to the public to demand that the law be obeyed. The governor is free to, essentially, continue breaking the law.

By Sen. Galbraith’s calculations, financing of Shumlincare will require a minimum of $1.6 billion. To extract this sum from Vermont residents will require one of several tax proposals, such as an employer-paid 11 percent payroll tax on all employees, including out-of-state employees, plus a 2 percent tax paid by employees. This would include schools and municipal governments (which, of course, would get passed on to taxpayers), and ERISA businesses (self-insured companies, e.g. IBM, GE, C&S). In addition, non-wage income (interest, rent, dividends, rent and capital gains) would be taxed at 10 percent. Self-employed would pay 13 percent. The cap would be the same as it is for FICA, $113,700 (although the FICA cap increases to $117,000 for 2014). There would be no deductions for home mortgage interest, charitable deductions, etc.

An alternative for funding Shumlincare is a 19.5 percent Sales Tax (includes present 6 percent Sales Tax) but with no exclusion for food or clothing and expanded to include all services. Another is an income tax starting at 15.5 percent and rising to 24.4 percent.

It’s almost as though our neighbors to the east helped write Green Mountain Care. Any of these proposed funding mechanisms will drive businesses to New Hampshire, and certainly will discourage new businesses from coming to Vermont. Businesses along the border will lose business as more people cross the border (on all four sides) to avoid a 19.4 percent sales tax. More wealthy seniors will relocate their legal residences to Florida or other non-income tax states. Those who think Vermont would be a better place to live with a smaller population will get their wish. However, the few left will have a bigger burden to pick up to make up for those who leave.

It seems that Gov. Shumlin owes us a detailed explanation of his proposal to fund his health care plan without delay.

Dart Everett,

Brattleboro, Jan. 28

Remembering Seeger

Editor of the Reformer:

Here are my musings on the passing of a remarkable man who gave so much to the world community.

I have a hard time conceiving of the words "rest in peace" alongside the name of Pete Seeger. That would suggest that a banjo was not available. Pete Seeger without a banjo would be like John Henry without a hammer. It’s not happening in my mind.

My guess is that wherever he is, he’s already noticing some new cause that needs funds, some injustice that needs light shown upon it or some sorrow that needs the joy of music and dance to surround it with love.

One thing is certain for me, Pete Seeger is right here among us. One of his constant themes was the passing on of tradition, music and collaboration among brave souls everywhere. Speak up! Sing out! Get organized! Find eloquence in song or picture or story! The man created a legacy that will continue to challenge us long into the future.

I was once traveling in Siberia and a Russian asked me if I knew Pete Seeger? I replied that I had been to his concerts and knew his music. The Russian replied, "He was here once!" I am sure that this is being said all over the world these days.

Andy Davis,

Brattleboro, Feb. 3