The Property Tax Rebellion Has Been Postponed Indefinitely

It’s common knowledge that the people of Vermont are mad as hell over the high cost of public schools. And even angrier over the Legislature’s attempt to fix the problem. The situation was so dire that Governor Shumlin and Democratic leaders rushed through a fix to Act 46’s perceived unpopularities at the start of this year’s session.

Then came The VPR Poll, which showed an astounding lack of engagement with the issue. Here’s how I wrote it up:

As for Act 46, the school governance bill seemingly reviled by all — from conservatives who want tougher spending controls, to liberals who want no restrictions — most people are, well, ehh. Only 13 percent are “very familiar” with Act 46; 44 percent are “somewhat familiar”; and a whopping 42 percent are “not at all familiar.”

… Also, despite the Act 46 uproar, a solid 51 percent support Vermont’s efforts to encourage school consolidation. An underwhelming 29 percent oppose. 20 percent say “it depends” or “no opinion.”

One week later came Town Meeting Day, and the results add more credence to the poll. Josh O’Gorman of the Vermont Press Bureau totted up the numbers, and the conclusion may surprise you.

Around the state, voters approved 95 percent of school spending plans, and approved five merger plans by wide margins, according to unofficial data from the Vermont Superintendents Association.

All told, voters approved 231 of the 242 budgets offered Tuesday, creating a three-year trend that has seen fewer budgets defeated each year.

Huh. If the people of Vermont are ready to torch-and-pitchfork the Legislature, they’re sure being awfully darn subtle about it. Or maybe the vast majority are fine with how things are going, and willing to underwrite the high cost of Vermont’s very good public school system.

Could be another sign of trouble for Phil Scott. The Republicans have been making hay over taxes and school administration, claiming that The People Are Fed Up, and that many are fleeing the state for tax-friendlier locales.

Well, the IRS data shows no sign of a mass out-migration. The VPR Poll showed widespread disengagement with school funding reform AND the ongoing problems with Vermont Health Connect. Town Meeting Day displayed broad support for local schools.

Methinks the Republicans are spending way too much time within their own circles. They might prove to be just as out of touch with Vermont as their national brethren are with America.

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