For Immediate Release
September 26, 2016

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VERMONT — All summer long, VPIRG interns have been knocking on doors, selling Vermonters on the vague idea a arm-leg“carbon pricing” scheme for our state. These short presentations are misleading people about what is at stake if Vermont were to actually pass a Carbon Tax (a more accurate term that the VPIRG people avoid).

The VPIRG doorstep presentations do not inform citizens that implementing the carbon tax in Vermont as they propose will add 88¢ to every gallon of gasoline purchased, $1.02 to every gallon of home heating oil or diesel, and 58¢ for propane and natural gas. Instead, they misleadingly promise that the tax will be levied on out-of-state “big oil” types, without disclosing the fact that these costs will be passed along to you the consumer.

In order to correct these misleading half-truths, the Ethan Allen Institute has launched today an informational radio and social media campaign highlighting the true costs of the Carbon Tax, should it become law in Vermont.

The timeline for placing a Carbon Tax on Vermonters begins with passage of a bill in 2017, after this November’s elections. As such, now – before this coming election — is the time for Vermonters to become informed about the true details of the Carbon Tax, how it would work, who benefits, and who gets stuck with the bill.

The Ethan Allen Institute’s radio ad  will run on stations throughout the state (Brattleboro, Colchester, Middlebury, Morrisville, Rutland, St. Johnsbury, and Waterbury), and our social media effort begins with a commentary piece by former Weidmann CEO for North American Operations and chairman of the board for Associated Industries of Vermont, and now EAI board member, John Goodrich: The Carbon Tax Would Kill Jobs.

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Contact :
Rob Roper
Ethan Allen Institute
President
802-999-8145
rob@ethanallen.org

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john-goodrich

John Goodrich

by John Goodrich

For nearly 38 years I had the privilege to work for one of the most important companies in the Northeast Kingdom. St. Johnsbury-based Weidmann puts bread on the table for 300 families. It was, and is, a mainstay of our local economy.  As a measure of that importance to the local economy over the past 25 years, Weidmann paid directly in salaries and wages more than a  ¼ billion dollars ($250,000,000) to its local employees.

Thus I am alarmed at the urgent call by activists and political candidates for the imposition of a new “carbon tax” on gasoline, diesel fuel, natural gas, heating oil, propane and other fuels. According to the proposed plan, this tax would be passed by the legislature in 2017 (right after this coming November election), implemented in 2018, and expanded each year thereafter until 2028 when it would be collecting $500 million (half a billion!) a year – more than the current sales tax, and almost as much as the current income tax.

In 2012 Weidmann, an international company with several locations around the world, decided to expand at our St. Johnsbury plant. We just barely won out over competing non-Vermont sites. Our local plant is a major user of compressed natural gas for process heat to produce transformer board, a critical component needed in electrical transformers large and small. If a carbon tax had been levied on our fuel supply at the time, I am pretty sure the expanded plant you see on Route 5 would today be located in some other state or country, and the the entire Weidmann operation in Vermont would be tenuous at best.

As we investigated fuel sources for our needed process heat, we critically examined and compared our costs if we were to use oil, gas, wood chips, cow-generated methane gas, solar panels and wind generation.  Only oil and gas were competitive and consistent enough to sustain our operation.  At one point, during an oil price spike, we determined that an electric boiler would have been cost effective. However, we were discouraged by our utility to use an electric boiler because it would have required substantial investment in the transmission deliver system as the existing lines and transformers could not support such an intensive use of electricity. Cow methane had some possibilities but the dependence on just a few farmers capable of producing that gas is too risky for our plant’s ever present and on-going large requirements. Wood chips, seemingly beneficial to our forest owners, loggers and compatible with our natural renewable resources was completely lacking in political support (because I learned all political chips were being placed on wind and solar).

When considering the imposition of a carbon tax on gasoline, diesel fuel, natural gas, heating oil and propane, I see a detrimental effect on the competitiveness of our business in the rural NEK, and I’m sure throughout the state. I also see such a tax doing great harm to the hard-working rural Vermonters who get up and drive each day to and from work, sometimes great distances, in all kinds of weather down to 40-below.  Ultimately, the carbon tax is an attack on many of our businesses and individuals

Keeping Vermont’s economy afloat is a huge task. Vermont businesses like Weidmann, and I’m sure many others are in the same boat, have enough hard work staying above water without facing a massive new carbon tax. It is a bad idea.

- John Goodrich was formerly the VP of Operations for the Americas at Weidmann and chairman of the board of Associated Industries of Vermont. He is currently a member of the EAI board of directors.

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by Rob RoperRob Roper

At the Tunbridge Fair, Democrat gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter indicated in an interview with WDEV’s Mike Smith that she is in favor of expanding the Vermont state sales and use tax to services. Currently it applies only to goods, with a few exceptions.

About thirty minutes into show, Smith asked Minter about tax policy, noting that, “Governors Dean, Douglas, and Shumlin avoided raising the personal income tax, sales tax, and corporate income tax because they said it would be damaging to the economy in VT. Would you do the same?

Minter replied evasively by answering an unasked question, “I will balance the budget. I will be a good steward of the people’s money. I will look at the economic impact of every spending and raising decision.” Or, in other words, “No.” Minter does not intend to avoid raising those taxes, and given the number of costly new programs she wants to implement, one can see why.

She went on to say, “We have a tax code now… that was really built around durable goods. And, now our economy – two thirds of it – is really a service sector economy…. We need to be thinking about the entire system. I’m interested in going back to the program [I think she meant “proposal”] we had after the Blue Ribbon Tax Commission that looked at what can we really do to lower rates by expanding the base. That would be my goal.”

The Blue Ribbon Tax Commission (BRTC) proposal Minter is referring to is expanding the state sales and use tax to coverdriveway services as well as goods – everything from paying legal fees, to putting your child in daycare, to plumbing and home repair, to snow removal to getting a haircut would be subject to the sales tax, and all of those businesses would have to bear the new cost and hassle of collecting, tracking, and remitting the revenue to the state.

The BRTC identified in its report 168 services from a Federation of State Tax Administrators study that would be eligible for taxation and specifically mentioned the following examples: “Lawn and garden, personal transportation, residential utility, financial and insurance, misc. personal (childcare), clothing-related, other professional (legal), personal property rentals, vehicle repair/maintenance, housing and real-estate, pet-related, storage and moving, telecommunications, personal care, home cleaning/maintenance, education-related, admissions/recreation/travel, medical, residence construction/repair, and misc. repair/installation.” That’s a lot of day-to-day expenses that will all of a sudden be between 2 and 6 percent less affordable for Vermonters.

Which gets us to the promise to lowering the overall sales tax rate. If all services were subject to the sales tax, and the policy change was revenue neutral, the overall rate could be lowered to around 2 percent from 6 percent where it is today. However, if healthcare and educational services remain exempt, as most people think they would be for both political and legal (the heavy federal money and involvement in those services likely makes them un-taxable by the state), the rate only comes down to between 4.5 and 5 percent. And, Minter did not say if she were in favor of a revenue neutral sales tax shift, or one that lowered rates but still raised revenue.

Expanding the sales tax to services would exacerbate Vermont’s New Hampshire problem, as our neighbor to the east has no sales tax on goods or services. Lowering Vermont’s sales tax from 6 percent to 5 or even 4 percent would not prevent shoppers from crossing the boarder for tax-free savings on goods, and expanding the tax would just encourage the same kind of border jumping regarding services. The disadvantages Montpelier has placed on Vermont retail businesses, especially through sales tax policy, has been devastating. Do we really want to do the same thing to our service sector?

It’s worth noting that there was a dissenting minority report issued by the BRTC in regard to expanding the sales tax that touches on the issues mentioned above, but also raises the distinct possibility that an initial lowering of the sales tax rate in connection with expanding it to services may not last very long. Do we trust our politicians who are facing annual budget deficits and seem to have an insatiable desire to spend money to keep the rate low? In fact, Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P- Chittenden), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has been an advocate for a non-reveue neutral increase in the sales tax. Ashe is an often mentioned candidate to replace retiring John Campbell as Senate President Pro Tem.

If expanding the sales tax to services really is, as she says, Minter’s goal, Vermonters have to have long and detailed conversation about it between now and November, and decide if this is something they really want.

– Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. He lives in Stowe.

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by Rob Roper

Earlier this week Governor Peter Shumln asked his agency leaders to identify programs that could either be drastically cut back or eliminated altogether. The budget reality Shumlin is finally facing up to in his last months in office is that the state cannot afford all the government the legislature has voted into being. As the Administration Secretary, Justin Johnson described the exercise, “Look at what you’re offering and say, ‘Is there something that we would not do so we can do the other things better?’”

Here are some thoughts….

Eliminate Efficiency Vermont. That would save $50 million right off the bat. Though it is a politically popular program, particularly with the left, is helping people choose light bulbs and insulate their homes really a core function of government? Shouldn’t these initiatives be led by privately funded non-profits and the power companies? Get government out of this so we can do other things better.

Repeal Vermont’s Certificate of Need (CON) laws. Currently, thirty-six states and D.C. have CON laws that essentially require some businesses, particularly healthcare services, to get permission from the government in order to open and operate. Vermont is the worst and most burdensome of them all. Again, it is not the role of government to determine if a community needs a privately provided service or not. That’s for the marketplace to decide. So eliminate the CON laws along with the all the bureaucracy necessary to implement them. Vermonters will benefit on both ends – saving the taxes used to pay for an unnecessary government function, and accessing more cheaper services in the marketplace.

Cut funding for universal public school pre-k and make it a means-tested program. For the past ten years the legislature has been eagerly expanding the role of the public school system to include all three and four year olds. This has added tens of millions each year to Vermonters’ property tax bills, and, if this program is allowed to continue on its present path, will end up costing in the hundreds of millions per year. And, it doesn’t work. Test scores taken by fourth graders who have matriculated through the pre-k program have actually dropped as access to publicly funded pre-k has expanded.

Access to subsidized pre-k can have a positive impact for poor and at risk children, so Vermont can both save money for taxpayer and increase the societal benefit of pre-k by for making it a limited, means-tested, program for low income families rather than a universal entitlement for the rich and middle class as well.

There are three things to start on. I’m sure there are many more.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 

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by Rob Roper

As Sue Minter, the Democratic nominee for governor, announced it would be her goal to expand the state sales tax on services and the issue has heated up on the campaign trail, perhaps a little history is in order.

This idea formally surfaced in 2011 after the Blue Ribbon Tax Commission (BRTC), a three member panel appointed by Governor Jim Douglas, then Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, and Speaker of the House Shap Smith, submitted a report to the legislature on overall tax reform. These recommendations had to be revenue neutral – no tax increases, no tax cuts. One of them was to expand the state sales and use tax to include 168 services, such as child care, automotive repair, landscaping, etc., as well as goods.

The broadened tax base would be used to lower the overall rate from 6% to somewhere between 4.5% and 5% after exemptions were applied to healthcare, education, and business to business services.

Speaker of the House Smith liked the idea so much he appointed a special House committee to look into expanding the sales tax during summer and fall of 2012, and even went on the record saying he wanted to make it a pillar issue in the 2012 elections. However, after the group Vermonters First ran a television ad explaining what expanding the sales tax meant to various businesses, the political support scattered like cockroaches when the lights come on, and Smith temporarily backed off.

The idea didn’t die there, though. More recently the lead booster of expanding the sales tax has been Senator Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden), chair of the Senate Finance Committee. In 2015, Ashe offered a formal proposal for expanding the sales tax to services that would have lowered the overall rate to 4.75%. Ashe, however, did not see this as a revenue neutral proposal, but a way to “grow what has been a declining source of revenue for the state.”

And, when Shap Smith announced his plans to run for lieutenant governor, VPR reported in just May of this year, “Smith says he also wants to pursue sales-tax reforms that could bring down rates, and stabilize revenues, by expanding the sales tax to include a growing services-based economy.”

The main reason this plan has not moved forward despite such high-powered support in the House and Senate is the fact that as Governor, Peter Shumlin has opposed the expansion of the sales tax. When asked why, he noted wryly at one point, “I can see New Hampshire from my house.”

If Minter wins the race to replace Shumlin in the corner office, that check and balance will be gone and the path for expanding the sales tax to services will be open.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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by John McClaughry

Do you ever notice that electric vehicles are using the state’s highways without paying the motor fuel tax that other highway users have to pay to maintain those highways?

The Agency of Transportation reported to the legislature on this question in 2013. The report discussed several options, and finally recommended increased registration fees for electric vehicles: $120/year for all-electric and $71/year for plug–in hybrid vehicles.

But get this qualifier: “If such a registration fee option is adopted it would serve to effectively remove this incentive for the purchase or lease of electric vehicles “– that is, the incentive of not paying motor fuel taxes.

“Meanwhile, the increased use of these vehicles is an essential component of the state’s energy and environmental policy, as evidenced by their central position in the implementation of the 2011 Comprehensive Energy Plan and implementation of vehicle air quality rules.”

“The authors recommend that an increased registration fee for electric vehicles only be adopted if paired with establishment of a vehicle purchase incentive program.”

So there you have it. Because of Gov. Shumlin’s Comprehensive Energy Plan – never voted on by any legislator – we can’t reduce any present incentive for electric vehicles (using the highways for free) , so if we increase the registration fee to make them pay for their use of the highways, there has to be  a new purchase subsidy to offset it.

Shumlin’s “climate change” mania supports no end of costly subsidies. It’s time to toss it overboard.

- John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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by Rob Roper

At a “debate” at the Tunbridge Fair yesterday (9/15/16, hear the full debate here), Democrat gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter indicated that she is in favor of expanding the Vermont state sales tax to services.

About thirty minutes into the event, moderator Mike Smith of WDEV’s “Open Mike” program asked Minter about tax policy noting that, “Governors Dean, Douglas, and Shumlin avoided raising the personal income tax, sales tax, and corporate income tax because they said it would be damaging to the economy in VT. Would you do the same?”

Minter’s cagey reply, “I will balance the budget. I will be a good steward of the people’s money. I will look at the economic impact of every spending and raising decision.” In other words, no, I won’t avoid raising those taxes.

She went on to say, “We have a tax code now, Mike, and you know this, that was really built around durable goods. And, now our economy – two thirds of it – is really a service sector economy…. We need to be thinking about the entire system. I’m interested in going back to the program we had after the Blue Ribbon Tax Commission that looked at what can we really do to lower rates by expanding the base. That would be my goal.”

The Blue Ribbon Tax Commission recommendation Minter is referring to is specifically expanding the state sales and use tax to cover services as well as goods – everything from legal fees to getting a haircut would be subject to the sales tax. If all services were covered by sales tax, and the change was revenue neutral, the overall sales tax rate could be lowered to around 2 percent from 6 percent where it is today. However, if healthcare and educational services remain exempt, as most people think they will, the rate only comes down to between 4.5 and 5 percent.

(Note: EAI Board member Bill Sayre served on the Blue Ribbon Tax Commission and wrote the minority report opposing a sales tax expansion to services.)

Expanding the sales tax to services would exacerbate Vermont’s New Hampshire problem as our neighbor to the east has no sales tax on goods or services. Vermont’s service sector would face the same disadvantage our retail sector now faces, which has been devastating for business and jobs.

The damage from a sales tax on services would be particularly hard on small businesses. Many small businesses contract out services such as payroll, advertising, etc., which they would have to pay tax on. Large businesses that can afford to produce those services “in-house” by full or part time employees would not pay the tax.  The compliance hassles will also be a negative factor as service businesses would now have to collect, keep track of, and remit taxes to the state.

There are over 160 services that could be subjected to a newly expanded sales tax. Here are few examples of services that would look like:

  • Health Care (though likely would remain exempt)
  • Education (though likely would remain exempt)
  • Child Care
  • Automotive repair labor
  • Information Technology
  • Web/Graphic design
  • Payroll services
  • Home Maintenance
  • Plow services
  • Construction/Carpentry
  • Barbers/Hairdressers
  • Real Estate
  • Architectural services
  • Advertising
  • Accounting
  • Legal services
  • Cleaning services
  • Landscaping
  • Electricians
  • Plumbing & Heating
  • And many more…

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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by John J. Metzler

UNITED NATIONS—On a picture perfect September morning, the Grim Reaper struck in New York. Hijacked aircraft slammed into the Twin Towers of the Word Trade Center shattering the myth that terrorism “can’t happen here.”   Before long, the towers were like two belching black smokestacks set against the azure blue sky. America was under direct attack.

As I wrote fifteen years ago, and still assert, September 11th 2001 became this generation’s Pearl Harbor. The unprovoked attack on, in this case, iconic civilian targets by Al Qaida terrorists would set the political template for a generation much as Imperial’s Japan’s December 7, 1941 attack on Hawaii would trigger a reluctant America’s entry into WWII.

The docile rationalization “it can’t happen here” literally went up in smoke on September 11th.

The fundamental difference between the two attacks was that in 1941, the swarms of attacking aircraft carried the symbol of the red rising sun, and the aggressor had a home address: Japan. In the case of September 11, the shadowy terrorist Al Qaida network was then based in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which had become home base for the Osama Bin Laden network. Stated another way, we knew where to find to the perpetrators of Pearl Harbor whereas responding decisively to Al Qaida has assumed an ongoing war against shadows in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan and beyond.

The counter thrust against radical Islamic terrorism remains the conflict of a generation; we may be only about half way through.

But while we look back fifteen years, there are some quarters who will smugly say, fifteen years after the December 7’s, Day of Infamy, we were no longer fighting Japan nor Nazi Germany.

True. That’s precisely because both aggressive regimes were soundly defeated by the Big Five allies, the USA, Britain, France, Nationalist China, and Russia.

So if we look at the world of say 1956, namely fifteen years after Pearl Harbor, both Japan and Germany were being rebuilt as democratic and strong socio/economic systems. Both had become American allies, and both had become model democracies.

This is not the current case with the radical strain of hatred and violence which has hijacked parts of Islam. Al Qaida or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and a gaggle of other fundamentalist groups are symbols of global hate, intolerance, and hideous violence. These militants are far from vanquished despite the boastful hubris from the Obama Administration that we’re beating them.   The problem is far from contained or resolved.

Indeed the danger has widened and spread throughout the Middle East and Africa: Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. Yemen, once the poster child for Obama’s moderate Muslim policy, is wracked by brutal civil war. Turkey, once a reliable ally, faces political turmoil. In Africa, Nigeria, Somalia and Mali are torn asunder by extremism. So are we really safer?

Regrettably, a September 10, 2001 mentality still rests in much of the American psyche; well it happened, but can’t happen again.

Addressing last year’s UN General Assembly session, King Abdullah II of Jordan decried the violence between militant Islam and the world calling the “crisis a third world war, and I believe we must respond with equal intensity.” He spoke of the khawarej, the extremist outlaws who “use religion as a mask.” The Jordanian King warned tellingly, “Extremists rely on the apathy of moderates.”

Memories of that fateful day still flood my memory when I see the lights of lower Manhattan and recall the area that became known as Ground Zero. Three thousand innocent civilians from twenty countries were killed that cursed day. Some 343 New York Fire Department members and countless first responders lost their lives trying to save them. Even now sometimes when I see an aircraft flying a little low in the traffic pattern on a clear day, I have this flash-back to September 11th, and the attacks on New York, the Pentagon in Washington and in Pennsylvania.

Happily since then, New York has amazingly rebounded and shown its defiant resilience.

The current presidential campaign holds two competing visions both hawkish but nuanced. One claims that the problem is controllable and contained. The other asserts that we are yet to truly counterattack the menace. America’s Terrible swift sword is yet to vanquish the enemy.

Indeed by the Pearl Harbor anniversary, America will have chosen its new president.

Yet even on the clearest and most beautiful Autumn days, September 11 shadows and the symbolism still linger.

- John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China.

 

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by Guy Page

It may sound odd, but when I think of Vermont’s pursuit of 90% Total Renewable Energy by 2050, I think of Ferdinand de Lesseps.

Never heard of him? He was the creator of the Suez Canal who later attempted the digging of the Panama Canal under the French flag.

Inspired by his success at Suez and a transcendent if naïve 19th century belief in the unstoppable power of Modern Progress, de Lesseps led the national effort from 1870-94 to dig a “sea level” canal across Panama. When engineers warned the canal couldn’t be finished, de Lesseps counseled faith in France, progress, and himself. After a quarter century, failure was complete: no canal, a bankrupt nation, and 25,000 dead from accident, malaria and other tropical diseases.

The goal is not the only issue

Like building a trans-isthmus canal, pursuing a future with safe, clean, affordable, reliable energy is an ambitious, worthy goal. Five years after the unveiling of Vermont’s landmark pro-renewable 2011 Clean Energy Plan, there has been much progress in solar and wind development. Yet as with de Lesseps’ canal, some basic, foreseeable problems remain unsolved:

First, overdevelopment. Instate wind and solar development can’t meet our growing megawatt/hour needs without drastically remaking our treasured landscape. To compensate for weaker output compared to nuclear, hydro and natural gas, wind and solar power require vast acreage, premium siting, and proximity to consumers. Vermont is only just starting to realize what a 90% renewable portfolio will really look like. And it is no good to say Vermont can conserve its way out of overdevelopment. The CEP clearly states Vermont will need more electricity than ever to replace the fossil fuels now energizing our cars and home furnaces. Also, more extreme forms of conservation – the virtual exclusion of the private car, air traffic, and single family home ownership – are unacceptable to the average Vermonter and thus are doomed to failure.

Second, wind and solar produce power at nature’s whim, not when we need it. This intermittent power problem makes transmission more unreliable and difficult to manage as the ratio of wind/solar power to total load grows. The purported solution – efficient battery storage – does not exist in applicable, market-ready form. As with the followers of de Lesseps, we are told that technological breakthrough is just around the corner. Skeptics are told to have more faith in progress, and to keep the workers busy and the money flowing.

Appropriate technology

Perhaps technology will solve these problems. After all, the Panama Canal was eventually built – but not where, when, and how de Lesseps had envisioned. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt learned from France’s mistakes. Twenty years after the French plan failed, the United States completed a redesigned, relocated Panama Canal with sound planning and available technology.

Vermont should imitate TR and rework its energy future with a plan that doesn’t require landscape devastation or non-existent technology. Carbon reduction, the much-stated reason for a 90% renewable portfolio, can be achieved by state and regional policies embracing existing regional hydro and nuclear power with  more deliberate growth in wind and solar. In August, New York State took a bold step by including nuclear power in its clean power portfolio. Vermont and the rest of New England should consider following suit.

When (or if) the Big Energy Breakthrough happens – whether efficient storage of intermittent power, or a totally new form of power generation – we’ll be ready for it. Until then – pardon my skepticism, call me plodding and cautious, but our future is too important to leave to faith in progress.

- Guy Page is communications director of the Vermont Energy Partnership (www.vtep.org). 

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by John McClaughryJohn McClaughry

Election season is upon us, and many incumbent legislators are hoping to slide through to reelection on the basis of party support, name recognition, and their winning personalities. The first-time candidates build their campaigns around their record of civic performance plus a recitation of some of things that they’ll promote – or even fight for – once elected.  These typically include more and better jobs, “an economy that works for everyone”, universal health care, holding down rising taxes, better education at lower cost, stamping out “carbon pollution”, and the like.

What candidates of all persuasions should welcome, but often don’t, are informed, pointed questions from voters that make them take positions on current issues. Here are a baker’s dozen you might want to pose to those seeking your vote.

Government spending: Over the past five years the state’s General Fund spending, not counting Federal funds, has grown at around two and half times the rate of inflation, even though population is scarcely growing at all. Will you vote against budgets that increase state General Fund spending growth more than the rate of inflation plus population growth, currently around two percent?

Taxes: Will you vote for or against any proposal to increase the income, sales and use, and rooms and meals tax rates?

Health Care: “Dr. Dynasaur 2.0” is a proposal to be introduced into the 2017 legislature. It would provide “free” (taxpayer-financed) health care to everyone up to age 26, regardless of their means. Would you support or oppose this proposal?

All Payer Health Care Financing:  Following the abandonment of taxpayer-financed single-payer health care in 2014, the current administration set out to create an alternative called “All Payer”. The Green Mountain Care Board would collect all available health insurance and program moneys, including Medicare payments, and turn them over to one large provider-run Accountable Care Organization.  The ACO would in turn provide all “appropriate care” to a defined population, sharing in any savings that it might be able to produce. Would you support this plan, or oppose it?

Renewable Energy: Gov. Shumlin’s Comprehensive Energy Plan decrees that Vermont must get 90% of its total energy from renewable sources by 2050. This would require more weatherization, energy efficiency, reducing fossil fuel use (gasoline, diesel, heating oil, natural gas, propane), and subsidies to sharply increase electricity from wind towers and solar PV farms. Do you support the “90% by 2050” mandate?

Carbon Tax: The “Energy Independent Vermont” coalition is working to enact a “carbon pollution tax” on gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil, natural gas and propane to drive down the use of those fuels by increasing their prices to consumers. The carbon tax revenue is projected to be $500 million in 2028, 90% of which the sponsors promise would be used to reduce the sales tax rate by one percentage point, and give tax credits and rebates to various eligible consumers. Do you support or oppose enacting the carbon tax?

Big Wind: Would you support or oppose a state tax on new large wind turbines, cancelling out the 2.3 cents/kwhr Federal Production Tax Credit, thus making new wind towers in Vermont economically unfeasible?

Transportation: would you support or oppose initiating and joining a multistate agreement to cap the use of gasoline and diesel fuels in transportation, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and thus combat climate change?

School consolidation: Do you support or oppose the combination of incentives and penalties contained in Act 46 of 2015, designed to push consolidation of school districts into larger multitown Unified Districts?

School Choice: Would you support or oppose protecting parental choice in education where students now have it, and its extension to additional districts and students?

Free College: Would you support or oppose having the state pay for two years of post- secondary education in Vermont colleges for all qualified Vermont high school graduates, regardless of family income?

Passenger Rail: Would you support or oppose state investment to subsidize passenger rail service from Rutland to Burlington?

Gun Control: Would you support or oppose requiring federal background checks not only for purchases of firearms from licensed dealers, as at present, but also for all private transfers of firearms, including gifts, swaps, and transfers among family members?

These are the kind of pointed questions that you, the voter, have a right to ask your candidates. You have a right to expect meaningful answers. Don’t let them off the hook.

- John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org).

 

 

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