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Good for business

Vermont's new school funding law could prove to be a boon for businesses in the Green Mountain State.

The law, known as Act 60, is designed to equalize funding for students across the state by replacing local property taxes with a combined statewide property tax.

It was passed by the legislature last June after the state supreme court ruled the finance system unconstitutional in February 1997.

But under a bill now in a House-Senate committee in Montpelier, lawmakers would amend the funding measure to add millions of dollars in tax credits and other economic incentives.

The addendum bill, intended to help communities woo new businesses, targets downtown regions.

If House Bill 577 passes, businesses could opt for two of five incentive programs, including a 10 percent tax cut for research-and-development initiatives and a 10 percent tax credit for worker training.

"This bill is an statewide economic-development bill," Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, said in an interview.

Under the new funding plan, he said, "all schools have a stake in economic growth. Vermont is one town, one school system, and one family.''

Pressed for answers

When Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado recently sat down with a group of high school journalists, he got some tough questions and the students got some frank answers.

For example, when asked about a recent school finance lawsuit filed against the state by a group of rural districts, the governor reportedly said, "I hope they win."

The governor's views apparently do not represent the official legal opinion of the state government, which is fighting the lawsuit.

"I think there is an inequity," Gov. Romer added.

The suit contends that children in small, rural districts must attend deteriorating and crowded schools because school construction costs are reliant on property taxes.

The governor said he hopes the small districts "win in the sense it forces us to build a new and better system."

Gov. Romer was also questioned by the members of the Colorado High School Press Association about such matters as weapons in schools and national school testing.

--KERRY A. WHITE & MARK WALSH

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