The People’s Budget Campaign: Legislative Achievements After Year One


In the 2012 legislative session, the Vermont state legislature took an unprecedented step by adding language to the Vermont statute that moves the state toward budget and revenue policies grounded in human rights. Adopting a key demand of the People’s Budget Campaign, run by the Vermont Workers’ Center in collaboration with NESRI, Vermont’s budget is now mandated “to address the needs of the people of Vermont in a way that advances human dignity and equity.”

This is the first time that the purpose of a state budget has been defined in terms of human rights principles. The new provision specifies that public money must be raised and distributed with an explicit focus on people’s fundamental needs, requiring that “[s]pending and revenue policies … recognize every person’s need for health, housing, dignified work, education, food, social security, and a healthy environment.” These human needs lie at the root of social and economic rights protected under international human rights law, which to date have been largely ignored in the United States.

Vermont’s first steps toward a People’s Budget mark an astonishing breakthrough for a grassroots campaign launched only a year ago, as part of a broader human rights umbrella called Put People First!, which also includes the Workers’ Center’s successful Healthcare Is a Human Right campaign.