Letter: The teacher tax
I am writing to inform the voters of State of Vermont of the multiple issues confronting educators in terms of health care insurance here in the State of Vermont.
1. For over two decades, educators have received their health care insurance through plans offered by the Vermont Education Health Care Initiative (VEHI). VEHI is a non-profit organization which allows school districts to provide health insurance to their employees at a lower rate. When VEHI was first created, educators and school boards had equal representation on the VEHI board. This is no longer the case, the school board members have been allowed to hold the majority of the seats and as a result the educators can be overridden by the school board members.
2. The insurance plans that educators have had in the past through VEHI do not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. In summary, these plans provide too much coverage based on the federal standards. To keep these plans, districts would have to pay a "penalty."
The original purpose of these "penalties" was to provide a funding source for individuals who did not have insurance or have insufficient insurance. The school boards, with their control of the VEHI board, have decided to avoid those "penalties" by switching to insurance plans which meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. These plans offer less coverage at a lower price and have higher out of pocket expenses for educators.
3. The savings being touted by this switch are in fact a "teacher tax." The money being saved by reducing the educators' benefits is being proposed to reduce the state property tax. As a result, educators are footing the bill for a tax reduction for the rest of the citizens of the state. As proposed, educators are not only paying for the reduction of the state property tax but also are paying more out of pocket costs.
4. The proposal that all educators pay 20 percent of their health insurance premiums is a further tax increase on all educators. Educators work for their individual school districts; they do not work for the State of Vermont. The percentage of insurance paid by educators in each school district reflects the contract negotiations between the educators (employees) and the school boards (employers). This proposal would introduce the State of Vermont into the contract negotiation process; that would violate a decades' long held process between employees and employers.
In summary, educators in the State of Vermont are facing multiple new taxes based on the proposed changes. Educators will get less coverage and pay more for a plan that may or may not reduce the state property taxes. Educators are also tax payers, why should the burden of tax relief fall on them?
— Scott Noren
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