January 16, 2020

By David Flemming

At least one progressive legislator is willing to admit it: vehicle feebates are carbon taxes. Worse, he admits feebates may not even stay in Vermont. They could end up in the pockets of out-of-state billionaires funding green energy.

On Tuesday, January 14, the House Committee on Transportation considered putting new fees on all gas or diesel powered vehicles below a yet-to-be determined miles per gallon threshold.

A feebate aims to lower “transportation related fuel consumption and carbon emissions using two primary elements.” These are “rebates awarded to purchasers of low emissions vehicles” which are funded by “fees assessed on the purchase of vehicles that emit more GHGs and are less energy efficient.” Sounds like a carbon tax to me.

And while some legislators may have qualms about calling it as such, committee chair Curt McCormack did not. “I really like feebates, but it could be an indirect carbon tax,” he said.

Leading up to this admission, was some other forthcoming analysis. Discussion of electric vehicles led McCormack to say “costs are coming down. At point do we consider (electric) vehicles without incentives?”

“A lot of people no longer consider those factors in their purchasing decision.” Vehicle manufacturers are “going to have to hit that price point. The danger is if the price point is above the level where the incentive kicks in, they would just raise the price. (The manufacturer) would capture the rebate.”

There are two classes of businesses in Vermont: those that cater to the needs of their neighbors and those that cater to the “needs” of the legislature. If you fool several customers once, you won’t be in business long. Fool the legislature and/or the federal government, by raising the price of EV’s to match any state/federal subsidy, and it seems they’ll turn a blind eye so long as they like your mission statement.

McCormack frankly admits vehicle feebates create the incentives for hoodwinking the government. And yet, he “really likes” them. Of course, the only foreseeable reason for this support can be to ‘fight climate change.’

Just 10 years ago during Occupy Wall Street, progressives clamored for a government that showed less favoritism for business. Now that has gone out the window.

The ends (climate action) justifies the means (giving big businesses on ‘climate crusades’ whatever government funding they ask for). Hardworking Vermonters could already be putting money in the pockets of billionaires like Tesla owner Elon Musk (net worth $26 billion) whenever a Vermont dealership sells an electric Tesla. And now, apparently, our legislators want to tax everyday gas-powered vehicles, which may put even more money in the hands of billionaires.

Climate action has a veneer of social justice around it. But prod that presumption a little bit, and climate justice simply becomes government redistribution from those ‘too frugal to purchase the shiny new climate toys’ and toward ‘those who don’t know how to get rich without government funding.’ It is becoming apparent that even social justice warriors, like all of us who love freedom and equality, must oppose the most extreme climate alarmists.

David Flemming is a policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute

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January 15, 2020

by Rob Roper

The ink wasn’t dry on the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) memorandum of understanding before Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH) declared it a “boondoggle” that his state would never support. That first domino fell hard, now several others are teetering.

In Connecticut, Governor Ted Lamont (D-CT), who has an approval rating of 24 percent and is already bleeding political capital over his plan to bring back tolls on interstate highways, wants absolutely nothing to do with some cockamamie gas tax. Said Lamont about TCI, “…raising that gas tax, frankly, is what other states — mainly Republican states — have done to pay for transportation. I think it’s 100% paid for by Connecticut residents and probably not the way the to go.”

In Maine, Governor Janet Mills had been a strong supporter of TCI until word started to get out that increasing the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel was both regressive in nature and especially punitive to rural constituents. Maine, like Vermont, is almost entirely rural. So now feeling the heat, Mills is changing her tune. According to the Boston Globe, the Maine Democrat’s office said that “the challenges of climate and transportation issues for rural states like Maine are unique, and the state will be appropriately cautious when considering these issues.”

Rhode Island Governor Gina Riamondo (D-RI) is still on board with TCI, but that state’s speake

r of the house Nicholas Mattiello is not so sure. According to the Providence Journal, he “effectively ruled out any tax increases proposed by fellow Democrat Gov. Gina Raimondo last month, including the potential gas tax hike emanating from a regional climate initiative, saying it ‘will be looked at very skeptically.’”

And, here in Vermont during his State of the State speech last week Governor Scott said, without naming TCI specifically, that “I simply cannot support proposals that will make things more expensive for [rural and low income Vermonters].” Scott has be vehemently opposed to any form of carbon tax since his first run for governor in 2016.

If New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island don’t participate in the TCI program, that would leave Massachusetts, whose governor, Charlie Baker, is probably TCI’s biggest booster, completely isolated. Baker himself is under increasing pressure by a growing, bi-partisan group of legislators who don’t like the regressive nature of the tax.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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January 13, 2020

By David Flemming

Lately the media has paid some much-needed attention to Vermont’s financial challenges related to unfunded pension liabilities, demographic changes, and labor force at the state level. However, our towns must deal with many of the same and similar challenges. This has not received its due attention.

To help shed some light on this important but underreported issue, the Ethan Allen Institute partnered with Reason Foundation to write a report entitled “Towns in Trouble: Assessing Municipal Fiscal Health in Vermont.”

We analyzed 30 Vermont towns for their fiscal year 2018, accounting for 46% of Vermont’s total population. Only four are in excellent fiscal health (scored 70 or above), 16 meet a minimum of fiscal strength (scored 50-69), while 11 are in poor fiscal condition (scored 49 or less). Scores ranged from 22 to 92.

Some of these results were surprising, others less so. Many of the top performers were in Chittenden County, but even there, eight towns were only marginally healthy, and just two were in good fiscal health. Wealthy Shelburne landed exactly in the middle of the fiscal health rankings, at No. 15, with a 58 score. Lyndon has a median household income that is less than half of Shelburne, and yet it was able to score a 70 on fiscal health, a full 12 points better. So clearly, a high median income does not always equate with a healthier fiscal score.

Randolph and Rutland received two of the worst scores and have been reprimanded by their auditors for “material weaknesses” in their accounting practices. St. Albans also received a poor score, but it is taking active steps to improve and did not have any material weaknesses its auditors identified. Improving accounting practices, as St. Albans has done, may help towns to avoid cutting services or increasing taxes in the long term. But there comes a time when such drastic measures may have to be considered.

In this study, we employ a fiscal scoring system to determine which of Vermont’s 30 most populous towns and cities may be at risk. We also provide a “How To” guide for citizens of smaller towns to discern their town’s fiscal condition. Our methodology is similar to the studies completed by California’s State Auditor and UC Berkeley’s Haas  Institute.  We solicited feedback from over 50 Vermont municipal employees during the course of this project in order to be as accurate as possible.

We determine “fiscal health” by measuring several factors that municipal management has some control over, such as debt costs, savings and pension liabilities. While the “Property Values” and “Employment” categories are less in the control of each municipality, these only accounted for 20 of the 100 points in a score. Most of the differences between towns can be accounted for by the three categories which towns do have some control over. You can view our calculations here.

It has been 124 months since the last U.S. recession, an all-time record. Towns should be shoring up their resources for an inevitable economic downturn, which many economists are forecasting within the next two years. However, few Vermont towns look especially fiscally resilient, and many are losing population.

Fiscal stewardship, especially at the level of local accountability, should be looked upon as a process of continuous improvement, even for the towns with high scores. Often, Vermont towns aren’t aware of the fiscal precariousness of their situation. Our intention is not to single out poorly performing towns. Rather, we hope to provide all Vermont communities with a new set of signposts for diagnosing their fiscal health in the coming decades, so that they can better serve their residents.

David Flemming is a policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute.

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January 13, 2020

by Jeff Kaufman, MD

This piece was created as a letter to WVMT radio hosts Marcus and Kurt following an interview segment with Senator Philip Baruth (D-Chittnden). Printed here with permission. 

Dear Marcus and Kurt,

Congratulations on an excellent segment.  You were well prepared and gave Senator Baruth plenty of rope.  Here’s what I heard him using it for.
He began by giving a small window,  seen in retrospect, into his mindset.  Answering one of your questions about how he felt about the upcoming legislative session, he expressed some distress with having to wait while he was seeing problems he couldn’t yet fix.  He opened other windows as he continued to speak.
I found he went on during your interview with him to reveal some of the fears which drive him to use his ranking senatorial position in an attempt, I believe, to assuage his psychic tensions.  He expressed several of these fears during the half hour segment.
In no particular order, topics Senator Baruth raised included his citing of Charlottesville as an example of a problem he has with public carry of rifles.  He described a scene wherein a neo-Nazi group was protesting and a second amendment group was carrying AR-15 semiautomatic rifles.  He said the leader of the Second Amendment group revealed that their purpose for being there was to express their Constitutional right to carry on public.  However, he said that to him, they were there for the purpose of intimidating others.  He is opposed to public carry of firearms, in this case long guns.
What the Senator is missing is one of the most important reasons we have a Second Amendment.  Vying for self defense is the power of deterrence.  How does Burlington, a city of 42,000 people, maintain law and order with only 100 police officers?  Deterrence.
Effective deterrence removes the need for the use of force. Gentle deterrents operate on our roadways in the form of speed limit or radar in use signage.  More obviously with the police car parked by the roadside, highly effective, even when vacant!  Our very Constitution and state laws themselves act as deterrents to antisocial behaviors.  Our courts and prisons are stronger deterrents, and amongst the most serious are penalties for the worst behavior such as for murder, where in some states the deterrent effect of the death penalty still saves lives.  On the global scale a world super power avoids war by its ability to use ultimate power.  The deterrent effect of firearms in the hands of “we the people” have protected Americans for over 230 years from criminals at the local level, from foreign aggression, and from the ever present threat of tyranny.  Marcus, the caller who reminded us how German Jews ended up in ovens must not be dismissed!  We are not there yet, as you said, in large part because we protect and defend our liberty according to the Constitution without compromise.
Senator Baruth said he does not want to be in a movie theater and have to worry that half the people in the theatre are carrying concealed firearms.  He is opposed to concealed carry (by implication, of hand guns).  Neither his personal feelings nor his exaggeration has any bearing on Vermont life nor experience.  He suggested risk from firearm ownership is cause for concern giving vague references to problems other states may be having.  He gave no data to back that up.  In fact, good data does demonstrate the extraordinary safety Vermonters enjoy and have enjoyed historically in the Green Mountain State.  Nor is there data to suggest that is changing for the worse.
He gave a self admitted crazy hypothetical as justification to confiscate firearms from the general public – he described concerns over a situation wherein an airline pilot becomes medically incapacitated and the aircraft’s being saved by a civilian (presumably talked down) who saved the plane and it’s passengers.  He then transitioned to further the hypothetical asking what would happen if any passenger were to decide to take over the plane?  Could they without proper training and certification safely land the plane?  He’s right, this was a crazy thought he had which has no bearing on firearms, Vermont, deterrence nor the Second Amendment.
As to how he operates when writing laws that affect every single Vermonter’s life, liberty and their ability to defend it and, important to the conversation about the Second Amendment and Article 16, to deter threats to obviate the need for defense, Senator Baruth’s fears, anxieties and input from a single person or group of several special interest people seem to be used to determine the fate of all of us.  He referred on two occasions during the interview to conversations he had, one with some unnamed person, the other with two (or three?) unnamed people.  By the input he received from these people he said he was revising the bills after giving them some additional thought. He said the second group agreed to compromise with him on gun control restrictions and as he said to a caller, he appreciates compromise.
Kurt asked him how he felt about the constitutionality of the new gun control laws he’s writing to which he unsurprisingly said he doesn’t believe they’re unconstitutional.  I believe he knows very well they are unconstitutional and violate both the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment and Vermont’s Constitution, Article 16, some also violating Vermont’s Sportsmens Bill of Rights.  I believe, based on his actions and words over time, that he feels he can get away with it and is acting with impunity.
I hope this gives some further good for thought.
– Jeff Kaufman

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January 10, 2020

By David Flemming

On January 9th, the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs considered the $15 minimum wage bill from 2019. Rep. John Killacky (D-Chittenden) began by saying, “I read (the 2019 report) ‘Women, Work and Wages in Vermont’ and the results were striking. Statewide women earn 84% of what men earn. Let’s get a pay raise for Vermonters (by passing the $15 minimum wage).” Killacky’s 84% number is based on hugely generalized statistics that leave a lot of relevant information out.

According to a Vermont Business Magazine article which borrows from a much more rigorous Paydata report, “overall, women in the US earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by men; when comparing compensation for all women versus all men (what PayScale calls the uncontrolled pay gap). However, in Vermont, women earn more – 87 cents for every dollar earned by men. Additionally, when PayScale controlled for various factors such as experience and job title (ie comparing apples-to-apples regarding compensation) to determine how much a woman makes compared to a man doing the same job, Vermont came out on top again.”

The article continues “women tend to spend more time out of the workforce, which hurts their career. In 2018, we studied this issue and found that when a worker leaves the workforce, they incur a wage “penalty” upon their return. Workers who took a break for 12 months or longer experienced an average wage penalty of 7.3% relative to a similar worker who did not take a break. Women take more breaks and longer breaks than men, primarily for taking care of children and aging family members, and bear the brunt of this “time-off” penalty….Nationally, this ‘controlled’ pay gap shows that similarly qualified women earned 2% less than men who do the same job. But, in Vermont, the uncontrolled pay gap essentially disappeared and women and men in the same roles were paid the same amount.”

So there you have it. Vermont women earn 100 cents on the dollar if you take into consideration their work preferences, better than the 98 cents on the dollar that American women do. Without understanding this fact, a $15 minimum wage will do more harm than good. While $15/hour might give women already working a small bump in pay, other women will be prevented from returning to the workforce if they been out for a long while, because they can no longer produce $15 an hour worth of labor. Those women will earn 0% of what a man makes.

A lower minimum wage ensures that employers can afford to give women time to get back on their feet in the workforce, giving them higher wages as they return to peak productivity. A lower minimum wage gives women the flexibility they need.

David Flemming is a policy Analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute

Anne McClaughry is the Ethan Allen Institute’s treasurer and served on its Board of Directors

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January 8, 2020

by John McClaughry

Shawn Shouldice is the longtime Vermont representative of the National Federation of Independent Business, and she’s concerned about a legislature that seems to have little interest in anything that would be a boost to Vermont’s small businesses.

“As the legislature convenes in Montpelier,” she writes, “there are many legislative initiatives that will increase the cost of doing business and hinder the owner’s ability to operate and to succeed.” She explains that over half of the Vermont workforce is employed by small businesses (63.3%), and there are 77,615 small businesses in the state. She says “expanding paid leave funded with a payroll tax, artificially increasing Vermont’s base wage, double-digit property tax increases, fuel taxes [TCI] and higher health insurance premiums” mean trouble for these businesses.

“With more and more Vermonters seeking greener pastures, placing more financial pressure on the state’s small businesses is endangering job creation and the ability for workers to meet their financial needs,” said Shouldice.

Vermont’s small businesses aren’t asking for subsidies. The exception is renewable energy small businesses, which need subsidies to stay alive. Shouldice wants lawmakers to focus on policies that spark economic growth rather than adding cost to already hard pressed local companies.

That’s not a call for a chance to feed at the public trough. Most small businesses just want to be left alone to sell their goods and services to the public. That’s a thought that legislators need to get through their heads. Alas, many haven’t.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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                                                                                  January 6, 2020

Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI)

On December 17 the Georgetown (Law School) Climate Center revealed its long-awaited Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) draft Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) (https://www.transportationandclimate.org). Gov. Phil Scott will soon be asked to sign Vermont into TCI, that advocates say is the most important climate change initiative of 2020.

TCI is a multi-state regional agreement to drive up the price of motor fuel (gasoline and on-road diesel). It proposes to start at five, nine or seventeen cents per gallon, and escalate upward from that, with no declared maximum.

The backers of TCI believe that “climate change poses a clear, present, and increasingly dangerous threat to the communities and economic security of each [participating jurisdiction].”  The MOU says that the participating states will “need to implement bold initiatives to mitigate the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector,” which produce 40% of human-caused emissions.

TCI will drive down those transportation sector emissions by driving up the price of gasoline and diesel fuel so that Vermonters will drive less, drive smaller cars, use electric vehicles, walk, ride bicycles, use public transportation, move closer to school and work, and so on.

TCI will accomplish this with what it calls a “cap and invest” system. TCI will set a cap, or limit, on carbon dioxide emissions from burning motor fuel. The cap will be tightened down year by year, requiring motor fuel to be made ever more expensive. Distributors of motor fuel – of which there are eighty in Vermont – will be required to purchase “allowances” in a TCI-managed auction market to match the motor fuel they have sold in each reporting period. TCI will create and issue as many “allowances” as it deems necessary to create higher fuel prices that will reduce fuel use and thus reduce CO2 emissions.

Motorists, including those driving passenger cars, pickups, SUVs, vans, school buses, delivery trucks, contractor vehicles, milk tankers, ambulances, snowmobiles and motorcycles, will pay for the “allowances” when they buy the higher-priced motor fuel at the pump.

TCI will distribute the revenues raised from the sale of its “allowances”, after covering administration and legal costs, among the participating jurisdictions according to a formula not yet determined. The states are supposed to use these revenues to “strategically invest in programs to help their residents transition to affordable, low-carbon transportation options”. Paying people to buy electric cars, and building charging stations for them, is a recommended use of the funds.

By increasing gasoline prices by from 5 to 17 cents per gallon the first year, and higher amounts in succeeding years,, the TCI plan will clearly be regressive, hitting working people and the poor hardest, especially in Vermont’s rural areas. The MOU states that participating jurisdictions are “committed to investing in and mitigating the impacts [caused by the higher fuel prices] on low-income and disadvantaged communities…vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate”, which suggests that the TCI revenues would be used to subsidize those persons.

The TCI’s “reference case” model projects that, without TCI, CO2 emissions from the 12 states will decrease by 19% from 2022 to 2032. If TCI is implemented, the model projects a 20% to 25% reduction over that decade. To achieve this, TCI would extract $56 billion from motor fuel users in the 12 states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by a little more than 5 percent over those ten years.

Because the idea of the carbon tax has become unpopular in Vermont, the TCI advocates declare that TCI is not a carbon tax. However, the mandated purchase of TCI “allowances” will indisputably add an increasingly punitive government-mandated cost, payable by motorists at the pump, on the carbon content of gasoline and on-road diesel fuel. That cost is a tax on carbon.

TCI expects that each state legislature and governor will enact legislation to enforce the TCI “allowance purchase” requirement on its motor fuel distributors.

An unresolved question is whether, even if Vermont does not join TCI, TCI can still impose the tax on fuel sold to Vermont distributors at regulated terminals in Massachusetts and New York, who would then pass the cost on to Vermont distributors and through them to retail customers at the pump in Vermont.

Another unresolved question is whether TCI can require Vermont distributors to buy allowances with respect to motor fuel brought in from Canada.  Quebec is a party to a cap-and-trade plan with California. The Federal government is suing to terminate it as beyond the power of a state government.

Finally, the composition of TCI’s governing body, and the formula for distributing allowance revenues among the participating jurisdictions, remain to be determined.

On December 17 New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced that his state would not participate in TCI, which he described as “a financial boondoggle” that would force drivers to “bear the brunt of artificially higher gas prices.” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has supported TCI as a source of revenues [collected from motor fuel users] for improving public transportation. Vermont Governor Phil Scott has adamantly opposed any carbon tax.

The TCI working group is soliciting public comment through their website HERE. Make your voice heard!

 

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January 6, 2020

by Rob Roper

WDEV’s morning host, Dave Gram, likes taxes and doesn’t like it when people refuse to call a tax a tax, which, he feels, demeans taxes. This led to a clarifying exchange between himself and Rep. John Killacky (D-S. Burlington) on December 31 over the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), which is nothing more than a regional carbon tax on motor fuels. Here are the transcript highlights:

JK. The other big dance [in the upcoming legislative session] is going to be this regional pact, the

Rep. John Killacky

Climate Initiative.

DG. The Transportation Climate Initiative.

JK. The governor has now put out a draft MOU to have Vermont join with eleven other states and the District of Columbia to do a cap and trade on carbon emissions. It’s a really interesting idea. Some people are calling it a carbon tax. I don’t think of it as a carbon tax. It’s a regional thing, and what happens is the money that is going to be taken out of this will be invested back into green energy and a green economy here in Vermont. And, if these other states do it surrounding us and Vermont doesn’t do it, the money will be invested in Maine and New Hampshire [Note: NH has already pulled out of the program.] and different places, so, it seems to me– but to get twelve states to agree is going to be interesting and to get our state – I think the legislature and the Democrats seem see the validity and the importance of this. The governor – he put out the draft, so I think he’s testing the waters on this….

DG. I’m going to give you a little push back on this tax thing. I’ll tell ya. I’m somebody who likes to keep language as clear and simple and direct as possible. That’s what I’ve always pushed for in my work as a reporter and also these days on the radio. I like to call things what they are…. I think shying away from that word sort of leaves a lot of voters with the impression that you’re trying to dodge something. I’m saying, if it is a tax, if we need to have a tax…. Why can’t we call things what they are?

JK. Well, you know Dave, I don’t mind calling it a tax. I think the distinction I hear, and maybe it doesn’t change that in your framework it could a tax, is that it’s invested back into the state. That this money isn’t just –

DG. That’s all the taxes that we pay! I pay taxes and it’s invested back into public safety. It’s invested back into (Talking over each other)

JK. Okay, then, I-I don’t disagree with you.

DG. When people hear people say, uh, it’s not a tax, it’s a fee or some other magical formula where, yes, you’re going to pay more money but we’re going to get all these benefits. I thought that’s what other taxes are….

Yes, that is what all taxes are, and TCI is a tax. A $20-$90 million carbon tax (5¢ – 17¢ per gallon) on Vermont drivers.

Proponents of TCI, like Rep. Killacky and many others, have been traveling the state in advance of the legislative session to peddle the notion that TCI is not a tax because the money raised will be “invested” in government programs with the full expectation that we, dumb citizens, will buy actually buy it. This is perhaps one of most absurd and disingenuous arguments ever put forward by elected officials (which is saying something), and Gram demonstrates just how easy it is to blow this argument out of the water. Thanks for that.

Here’s the full interview, with the relevant bits found between 1:20:00 – 1:25:00.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 

If you have an opinion about TCI, they are asking for public input. Make your voice heard HERE.

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January 2, 2020

by Rob Roper

Bill Schubart perfectly encapsulated the elitist, totally-out-of-touch mindset of Vermont’s carbon taxers in his latest VT Digger column in which he congratulates himself for heroically purchasing an electric car and supporting Vermont’s participation in the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), the left’s latest carbon tax scheme.

Much of Schubart’s piece focuses on why electric vehicles in their present state of development don’t make a lot of sense in Vermont. They perform poorly in cold weather, which we have an abundance of, and they don’t have sufficient range to be practical in a rural state, especially for work. But, no fear, Schubart is morally up to the task of living with and around these shortcomings, writing what to my mind is the money-line of the piece: “…if it’s freezing cold and I have a round trip to Montpelier [from Hinesburg], a stop at Red Hen Bakery in Middlesex for a quick charge, a latte and a croissant isn’t much of a price to pay for doing my part.”

What part? Apart from virtue signaling, Schubart’s EV purchase and support for TCI accomplish precisely nothing in regard to climate change while inflicting unnecessary pain on a lot of people. This is immoral. According to TCI’s own analysis, if the region did not adopt TCI, carbon emissions would drop by 19% over ten years anyway. If we adopt the mildest recommendation (5¢ tax), that number will go to 20%. Almost imperceptible. If we go whole hog (17¢ tax), the number goes to 25%. A 6% very minor regional change with no perceptible climate impact on a global scale whatsoever, but at a cost of over $50 billion – that’s with a “B” – in regressive, highly disruptive taxes on working people. Some of that money will be used to subsidize electric vehicle purchases, leaving owners like Schubart with more disposable income to spend on French pastry and fancy coffee. Not a particularly equitable arrangement.

Schubart opines, I imagine wiping buttery crumbs from his lips with a silk handkerchief, “It’s disheartening to hear special interests and climate deniers [he earlier made specific reference to EAI] froth on about their temporal material interests.” Yeah, temporal material interests like driving to and for work, getting our kids to school, going to the grocery store, etc., all of which you want to make more difficult and more expensive just so you can feel good about yourself without actually having to accomplish anything.

I’m happy for Bill Schubart that he can afford the time and money to nibble croissants, sip lattes, and indulge in fantasies that he’s heroically saving generations from future fire, floods and famine during the time it takes his $40K car to charge, but these are not luxuries most working Vermonters can afford. Forcing this burden upon them – especially when doing so will have no impact whatsoever on the problem you claim to want to solve — is nothing more than self-indulgent cruelty. It’s certainly not something to break your arm patting yourself on the back over. This is what folks like Bill Schubart don’t understand or care to contemplate.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 

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By John McClaughry 

On December 17 the Georgetown Law Center revealed its long-awaited Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). It will be open for on-line comments until February 28. At some point after that Gov. Scott will be asked to sign Vermont into TCI. Presumably the legislature would have to enact some provisions to make it enforceable on Vermont fuel dealers.

Here are twelve questions and answers that will explain what TCI is and expects to do.

Q: What is TCI? TCI is a multistate regional agreement to drive up the price of motor fuel (gasoline and on-road diesel). It proposes to start at five, nine or seventeen cents per gallon, and escalate upward from that, with no declared maximum.

Q: Why do the TCI backers want to drive up the price of motor fuel? Because they are convinced that “climate change poses a clear, present, and increasingly dangerous threat to the communities and economic security of each [participating state].”  The MOU says that the participating states will “need to implement bold initiatives to mitigate the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector,” which produce 40% of human-caused emissions.

Q: How will TCI drive down those emissions? By driving up the price of gasoline and diesel fuel so you will drive less, drive smaller cars, use electric vehicles, walk, ride bicycles, use public transportation, move closer to school and work, and so on.

Q: How does TCI drive up motor fuel prices? It creates what it calls a “cap and invest” system. TCI sets a cap, or limit, on carbon dioxide emissions from burning motor fuel. Every distributor of motor fuel – of which there are eighty in Vermont – will be required to purchase “allowances” to match the motor fuel sold in each reporting period.

Q: So, motorists, including passenger cars, pickups, SUVs, vans, school buses, delivery trucks, contractor vehicles, milk tankers, ambulances, and motorcycles will end up paying for the allowances?  Yes, of course they will.

Q: What does the state get for imposing these costs on motorists? TCI will distribute among the participating states some fraction of the revenue from its sale of “allowances”, according to an as yet undetermined formula. The states are supposed to use these revenues to further drive down gasoline and on-road diesel use, and “help their residents transition to affordable, low-carbon transportation options”. Paying people to buy electric cars, and building charging stations for them, is a recommended use of the funds. However, the states can use what they receive for anything their legislature desires.

Q: How many “allowances” will TCI issue? As many it sees fit. TCI will invent them out of thin air, and motor fuel distributors will be required to go into TCI’s auction market to buy enough of them with real money to match their motor fuel deliveries over a preceding reporting period. The cost of these “allowances” will be included in the price you pay at the pump.

Q: Won’t this plan hit hardest on working people and the poor, especially in Vermont’s rural areas? Of course. It’s regressive.

Q: How much will the preferred TCI scenario reduce carbon dioxide emissions from motor fuel? Drew Cline of New Hampshire’s Josiah Bartlett Center analyzed the TCI economic model. He found that the “reference case” used by the Georgetown Climate Center to project what would happen from 2022 to 2032 if states did not implement the TCI would likely be a 19% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. If TCI is implemented, emissions are projected to fall by between 20% and 25% over that decade. So TCI will produce an additional emissions reduction of between 1 and 6 percentage points on top of a presumed reduction of 19 percent. In short, TCI would extract $56 billion from motor fuel users to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by a little more than 5 percent over ten years.

Q: Will that reduction of emissions actually reduce “climate change”? Certainly not measurably. Probably not at all.

Q: Wait a minute. Isn’t this TCI “cap and invest” scheme just another carbon tax in a fancy package, designed to make it look like it’s not a carbon tax?  Yes, of course.

Q: Gov. Phil Scott has steadfastly promised to veto a carbon tax. Won’t he reject the MOU, as New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu has already done, and veto any legislation to force Vermont fuel dealers to buy those funny money TCI allowances that will drive up the price of gasoline and diesel fuel for all Vermonters?  As of now he won’t say, so if you don’t want to see the TCI drive up your fuel prices year after year, it wouldn’t hurt to encourage him to strengthen his resolve.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

 

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