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Forum, April 6: No way to thank Vt. state employees

Published: 4/5/2021 10:00:16 PM
Modified: 4/5/2021 10:00:14 PM
No way to thank Vt. state employees

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Vermont state employees have been working mornings, nights and weekends to make sure that vulnerable Vermonters are taken care of. It has not been easy.

In my division, Economic Services, we have been the backbone for providing emergency housing, food and fuel benefits and cash assistance for struggling Vermonters. On top of procedural changes, our caseloads has increased exponentially.

Department of Labor employees worked relentlessly for months processing benefits. Can you imagine being a teacher during the pandemic? I truly do not know how they did it. I am in awe. I could go on about all the state departments and divisions that worked very hard this last year.

Last year, Rep. Cynthia Browning introduced an amendment to eliminate a negotiated pay increase for state employees. Thankfully, our legislators voted no. Less than a year later, lawmakers want to thank state employees for their hard work by taking money from our pensions that was (again) already agreed upon in order to fix budgetary issues we have not caused.

My millennial generation has had to endure one economic crisis after another that we did not have a hand in creating. I applied for a state job, and have worked for the state for more than five years, because of the benefits and security that come with it.

Please stand by state workers, and tell your local representatives to look at the impact these proposals would have on the state workforce. Support the use of one-time money — federal relief or other available funds — and identify a dedicated revenue source to support the retirement system. Bill S.59 would create a temporary income tax surcharge on income over $500,000. S.43 would give the agreement between the state and its employees the full force of contract law.

The solution to budget issues should never come from the pockets of hard-working public service employees. What these proposals say to me and to others is that our representatives do not care about us. We will remember this at election time.

ASHLEY WENTZELL

Lebanon

The writer is a benefits program specialist in the Economic Services Division of the Department of Children and Families.

HB 544 shuts down honest conversations

On Jan. 12, New Hampshire state Rep. Keith Ammon, R-Hillsborough, introduced the controversial bill HB 544, which would ban conversations about race and gender in government. This bill has now been included in the budget bill. This is another attempt by elites in this country to pit people against each other, maintain control and hoard the vast majority of wealth and resources.

We know for this country to live up to its promise of a multiracial democracy where Black, brown and white communities can thrive together, we are going to have to share ideas and talk together about racial justice, gender justice and what justice for all really means, in particular within our government. Against the wishes of the majority of Americans, including the majority of its employees, some don’t want those conversations to happen.

The bill specifically bans implicit bias training and racial equity training, But the broad purpose of the bill was clearly stated when Rep. Ammon publicly denied that systemic racism exists and claimed that our country has rooted out its last vestiges already.

It is telling that this is taking place the very week the country is reeling from the trial for the police killing of George Floyd.

HB 544 and the budget bill amendment seek to reduce the vast challenge of systemic racism to individual problems. This is an abdication of responsibility for ending systemic racism.

This attempt to shut down conversations within the very entity producing the harm — government — by banning certain words is dangerous for New Hampshire and for racial and economic justice. It’s vital Granite Staters make their voices heard by calling or writing their representatives and demanding they vote against HB 544 and its copied language that was introduced into the budget as an amendment.

And while you reach out to your representatives, be sure to include your opposition to a similarly racist bill, HB 266, punishing towns and cities for being inclusive toward immigrants by ensuring they are not being targeted or profiled.

ASMA ELHUNI

West Lebanon

There’s no morality in NRA money grab

Author Jennifer Carlson claims in her op-ed column that National Rifle Association firearms courses “encourage people to see gun carrying as an act of moral responsibility” (“Five widespread myths about guns in America,” April 3). That’s rich: moral responsibility from the NRA.

This is the same group that decries any discussion of gun reform after mass shootings — saying such talk is opportunistic — yet the NRA avidly raises money at those very times. I received a robust NRA appeal barely a week after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, the 2017 massacre that killed 58 people immediately and injured 867 more at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas.

“Moral responsibility” isn’t any part of the NRA’s grab for money.

BOB WILLIAMSON

South Woodstock

The writer is a board member of GunSense Vermont.

Mourning Hanover sister city’s vice mayor

I am saddened to hear that Jean-Luc Allemand passed away recently. He was vice mayor of the city of Joigny, France, and in that capacity in the early 1990s he was instrumental in creating the sister-city relationship between Hanover and Joigny.

This cultural and social connection lead to a variety of Dresden student exchanges that involved local home-stays and regional tours, which are still active today. Later, several sports teams and music groups became involved. And members of both home-stay groups still keep in touch.

I had the privilege of taking a dozen or so Hanover High School students in the fall of 1991 for our first exchange. Students from Joigny visited Hanover the following spring. In a recent email, Allemand’s wife, Martine, wife, said: “It was always a great pleasure for him to visit his dear American friends and to welcome them as best he could in Joigny.”

And what a welcome it was! Formidable! Merci bien, Jean-Luc.

DON WATSON

Wilder

Business and taxes

Some politicians just don’t understand corporate or business economics 101. When a corporation is taxed, and overtaxed, it decreases its ability to expand, compete, pay off debt and, worst of all, raise wages and create more jobs.

So if one ponders why companies move offshore to seek shelter from government’s dipping too far into cash flow, maybe this might be a better understanding of why.

On another note, small businesses pay out more in the form of wage-earner taxes than larger ones simply because there are more of them. Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy.

JOE ALVIN

Hartford

Thanks to the Guard

The National Guard members working at the former J.C. Penney building in West Lebanon helping to give vaccines to New Hampshire residents are very patient, very kind, very helpful. Thank you to each and every one of them. It has been most difficult to make an appointment and to get this vaccine.

STEVE and GRETCHEN HADLOCK

Plainfield




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