The Mountain Times

°F Sat, April 19, 2014

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News from the Ledge

The State House was a busy place this week: Many visitors came to testify for or against the end-of-life choice legislation. Bill McKibben delivered a rallying cry for action against the causes of climate change. Vermont's digital gaming industry showcased their presence in the economic scene. The American Heart Association threw themselves behind proposed legislation to tax sugar-sweetened beverages (or SSB). Opponents of wind power made a return visit to reiterate their desire for a moratorium on new projects. And that is only the short list of activity.

The transportation committee was busy reviewing budget proposals from all of the Agency of Transportation and from the Department of Motor Vehicles with an eye to improving efficiency with forward-reaching investments.

Among the topics broadly discussed across legislative committees was the Governor's proposal to increase childcare subsidies in part by reducing state earned income tax credits by 17%.  It is proposed as a trade-off expense, but it appears that many people at or below 100% of the federal poverty level will actually lose ground. The earned income tax credit (EITC) is acknowledged as one of the most successful anti-poverty programs in the country. Some are questioning the same-sum result of the trade-off of EITC for free childcare. The Vermont Public Assets Institute, an independent (left-of-center) think tank, testified before the House Human Services Committee to point out the increased burden of the Governor's proposal. Legislators want to evaluate the proposal carefully before approving the budget plan.

On the fun side, Wednesday night was Farmer's Night in the house chambers and offered a performance by Rick and the Ramblers. They are described as a western swing band, and they are celebrating their 50th anniversary with a tour in their renowned tour bus - The Pickle. One of the more entertaining songs recalled a reality of small town life in Hardwick: When prom time came around in the early 60's, the only way to buy flowers for a date was from the local funeral parlor, and the shared space in the formaldehyde cooler made for an altered floral scent for prom night. It was a classic small town story, and the song is one you would do well to seek out. Like Rick said, "you can't make this stuff up."