To the Editor:
Kevin McCallum’s article “Plan to Boost Legislators’ Pay and Offer Health Benefits Advances” [May 10] was interesting in that, for the first time in my 67 years, I agree with a member of the Republican Party. This was when McCallum quoted Rep. Mark Higley (R-Lowell): “I think the optics of [the bill] are terrible.”
From the view of a Vermont taxpayer and a voter, he’s right, however much I applaud the intent of S.39, especially the idea of garnering a more diverse membership to the body. This was expressed so neatly by Conor Casey (D-Montpelier), who is my rep, when he said, “I really think it’s unfortunate for the state that somebody who pushes a mop or shovels gravel for a living is excluded from this body.”
Though Rep. Casey is right and the intent is good, I doubt S.39 will solve this problem. There are so many other factors about running for office that exclude working folks. Chief among these is the daunting problem for the mop pushers and gravel diggers (who generally labor without benefits because they are considered “temporary” in our society and not “eligible” for these things) of how American politics is now generally driven by money and its donors rather than democracy and equal representation of all classes.
Why S.39’s optics are so terrible is because, to date, our state government has consistently denied the mop pushers and gravel shovelers the benefits they are giving themselves, especially health care.