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Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

House Passes Bill To Limit Growth Of Education Spending

For years, House Democrats have been very reluctant to consider changes to Act 68, the state’s education funding law, but projections of double digit increases in spending over the next two years have changed the debate at the Statehouse.

Late Wednesday afternoon, by a vote of 110 to 24, the House give its preliminary approval to a bill that’s designed to slow down the growth of education spending in the future.

Bristol Rep. Dave Sharpe said the time has come to make some changes to the state’s education financing system

“It is a step towards bending the curve of education spending,” said Sharpe. “We are looking again next year at a similar challenge to our education spending formula in this state which requires us to take action now.”

The first change involves the penalty for schools that spend more than 25 percent above the statewide average. Over a period of time, this threshold would be reduced to 21 percent.

The legislation also increases tax burdens for households that pay their education tax based on their income and the bill also reduces the maximum benefit under this program.

The plan was criticized for being too timid and for being too expansive. Stowe Rep. Heidi Scheuermann said she was disappointed with the legislation.

“We’ve spent 15 years nibbling around the edges and making minor adjustments. The time is over. It’s time to be bold Mr. Speaker and this is anything but. Punitive yes bold no.”

But Warren Rep. Adam Greshin said the bill would have a positive impact in the long run.

“What we save this year or fiscal 2015 is really very small relative to what we can save in the future if we can reduce the growth in educations spending,” said Greshin. “And I think that is the important part of this bill.”

The measure is scheduled to come up for final approval in the House on Thursday.