Dear Governor Scott,
On behalf of the Community of Vermont Elders (COVE), we write to encourage you to sign the Fiscal Year 2019 budget the Legislature has set forth during the special session. While COVE is not directly engaged in the discussions related to the tax bill and property tax rates, we firmly believe that the state’s budget should not be held as a political hostage to the debates involving tax rates for second home owners and businesses. For over 30 years, COVE has fought on behalf of older Vermonters who struggle to stay in their homes and out of nursing homes, to be with their community physicians and out of emergency rooms, and to be with their families as they age with dignity in their homes and community.
It was Gandhi who said that a society is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable members. We know you believe this as well through your support of policies that have helped older Vermonters and other vulnerable Vermonters. However, the current debate and your public position begins to raise questions for us about your commitment to these values and whether political gamesmanship has taken the place of policy prudence. If Vermont’s government shuts down, older Vermonters will suffer.
After paying a lifetime of taxes, fees, and other supports for government, there are thousands of Vermonters who utilize important health and safety programs that allow them to keep living with dignity and health. How unfortunate would it be if Vermonters supported by homemaker services were unable to have skilled individuals come to their home to help them bathe, cook, clean, and move around?
How difficult will it be for working families to add the worry of how aging loved ones will be monitored so that they don’t fall and break bones, to ensure that they’re taking appropriate medications at the appropriate time, and that they’re getting the food and supplements they need to stay healthy and active? The safety net created by many of the important programs funded by Vermonters is not charity, it is a recognition that as a society we are all better off if we support our neighbors and their desire to live their remaining years with dignity and in good health.
Not signing a budget puts at risk the programs that support Vermonters who need it most. COVE regards a government shutdown, or even the specter of such a shutdown, not just as a failure of the political system, but a moral failing in which we as a society break the promises we have made to the people who will suffer the most as a result. We would ask you to reconsider your threats of a veto and to allow this tri-partisan budget to move forward, and, more importantly, to give assurances to Vermonters that their government will not fail them.
Ruby Baker, Executive Director, Community of Vermont Elders