The subject of a little-noticed provision in the state budget last year is getting national attention today, with a short, lively animation released by the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative and the Vermont Workers’ Center.
To shift the focus of Vermont’s budget process from money to people, the Vermont Workers’ Center has been promoting a People’s Budget. The idea is that instead of “managing to the money”—focusing on how much money is expected to come into state coffers and then putting together a budget that balances to that amount—the state should assess Vermonters’ needs and then decide spending and revenue policies based on those needs.
Many legislators feel that they already put Vermonters’ needs first. True, many intend to, but Vermonters’ fundamental needs are not being met: 15,000 more Vermonters slipped into poverty in the last decade, median household income has stagnated, and the gap between the richest and everyone else widened. Basics like health care and a college education have become unaffordable to many Vermonters.
Prompted by the People’s Budget Campaign, in 2012, the Legislature established in state law the purpose of the budget: “to address the needs of the people of Vermont in a way that advances human dignity and equity.” The law provides that “spending and revenue policies…recognize every person’s need for health, housing, dignified work, education, food, social security, and a healthy environment.”
This year, in the first budget since passage of this new law, the administration’s budget proposal reflected virtually none of the new thinking. Until Vermonters hold their government accountable for complying with the new law, it will be business as usual. Watch the video.