December 10, 2018

by Rob Roper

Young people are flocking to New Hampshire. What do they have that we don’t? Or, perhaps the better question is, what does New Hampshire not have that Vermont does?

Governor Scott made Vermont’s demographic crisis a focal point, stating at one point that he would like to see our state population rise to 700,000 (from 620,000) by the end of a decade. Our population woes have been in the spotlight for a long time. The Ethan Allen Institute published Off the Rails, a warning on the topic, in 2006. However, no policy or set of policies since then has done anything to help the situation. We continue to age, we continue to lose working age adults, and, when they leave, they take their school age kids with them, so our K-12 population has dropped by 30,000 over the past two decades.

This is no longer the case next door in New Hampshire. Although our neighbor to the east did suffer a loss of young, working age people during and after the 2008 recession, now the Nashua Telegraph reports, Young adults moving to the Granite State. Analyzing census data, the Telegraph concludes that between 2013 to 2017, roughly 5,900 people moved to New Hampshire from other parts of the country each year, with a noticeable increase in the last three years. Moreover, the article states,

…the transformation was most significant among people in their 20s with an average annual migration gain of 1,200 between 2013 and 2017, compared to an average annual loss of 1,500 from 2008 to 2012. 

Additionally, during the same period, the net annual migration gain nearly doubled among people in their 30s.

So, how come New Hampshire is successful in seducing twenty and thirty-somethings while Vermont is one of only two states to see a net decline in population? Maybe – just maybe — the fact that New Hampshire has no sales tax and no income tax has something to do with this. And the fact that New Hampshire lawmakers have gone out of their way to make the state more business friendly by lowering business taxes and reducing regulations.

Yes, the fact that southern New Hampshire is a long but doable commute to Boston is an advantage Vermont does not have and cannot replicate, but not everybody looking for an alternative to living in a metropolis like Boston or New York wants or needs to commute. Many are just looking for a place with a lower cost of living that still has opportunities to build a career. New Hampshire is working to make sure they offer both. Vermont politicians seem hell bent on offering neither. We can see the results.

— Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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December 7, 2018

by John McClaughry

Ten years ago the Federal government spent nearly $50 billion to bail out General Motors, and especially the United Auto Workers pension fund. After some repayments, Uncle Sam was still out $11 billion. A large part of GM’s financial woes stemmed from overburdensome union contracts, unfunded retirement benefits, and subpar craftsmanship. Ten years later, the bailed-out company, nicknamed Government Motors, is laying off 14,000 workers in North America, including eliminating more than 8,000 white-collar jobs and closing five plants, four in the U.S. and one in Canada.

It’s ironic that one of the GM models due for termination is the electric Chevy Volt. GM got into Volt production not because customers were clamoring for small electric cars, but because the Obama administration decided that small, electric cars were the answer to the menace of climate change. That was not a market-driven decision but a political one, based in large part on the massive taxpayer-subsidized rebates of up to $7,500 per car.

In 2012 President Obama drove a Volt in a brief public appearance and said boldly that “When I’m not president anymore, I’ll buy one and drive it myself”. I can’t find any evidence that this has come about. Obama also signed the hood of a Chevy Cruze, and called it “the car of the future.” That model too went on the GM chopping block, because people wouldn’t buy what GM was pressured to sell.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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by John McClaughry

On November 23 the U.S Government ‘s Global Climate Research Program delivered a Congressionally-mandated “National Climate Assessment” report. “Grim” is too weak an adjective for the terrors that the Report describes.

Here’s an attempt to summarize the document: The earth is steadily getting hotter. “Human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed climate changes in the industrial era, especially over the last six decades. Over the last century, there are no credible alternative explanations supported by the full extent of the observational evidence.”

“Without significant [greenhouse gas emission] reductions, annual average global temperatures could increase by 9°F (5°C) or more by the end of this century compared to preindustrial temperatures.” The increasingly dire effects will be sea level rise, fires, floods, droughts, heat waves, ocean acidification, shrinking glaciers, disappearing Arctic sea ice, “growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, air quality, and the transmission of disease through insects and pests, food, and water and the rate of economic growth,” and “challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality, and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad threaten rural livelihoods, sustainable food security, and price stability.” In short, an unspeakable planetary calamity “could” be coming.

The mainstream news media’s coverage of the Report was predictably contrived to induce panic. The media featured the Report’s recurring statement that the dominant cause (Washington Post: “almost entirely”) of its projected grim consequences is human action. Announced CBS News: “Mass deaths and mayhem: National Climate Assessment’s most shocking warnings – billions of hours in productivity will be lost. Hundreds of billions of dollars will be wiped from the economy. Tens of thousands of people will die each year.”

But what’s new here? The Report, relying on passive constructions such as “is projected to be”, seems to collect all of the contentions made by climate alarmists over the past 30 years, and announce them again with a redoubled sense of urgency.

The “projections” are founded on computer models that, over the same period, have seriously overestimated the observed increase in global temperature. The Report repeatedly tells us that somebody, unnamed, has “very high confidence” in certain of their own projections.

One critic has described the output as “an assembly of prophecies”, made by prophets whose careers in government-funded agencies will assuredly diminish if they don’t contribute to the correct planetary disaster narrative.

Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity is defined as the temperature increase that will result from a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide (now 410 ppmv). For thirty years the ”official” ECS has been estimated as 1.5 to 4.5° C, average 3.0, an extraordinarily broad range.

Climatologist Judith Curry (Georgia Tech) writes that “Climate sensitivity and estimates of its uncertainty are key inputs into the economic models that drive cost-benefit analyses and estimates of the social cost of carbon. Continuing to rely on climate-model warming projections based on high, model-derived values of climate sensitivity skews the cost-benefit analyses and estimates of the social cost of carbon.”

At least four recent scientific papers, including hers, have concluded that the ECS is more like 1.6° C. If so, even with continuing greenhouse gas emissions, warming will be gradual, comfortable, and probably net beneficial.

The tangible benefits from a warming planet are not conceded in the Report. Since the present warming – not caused by humans – began around 1850, living on Earth has become a much happier experience. We have longer growing seasons, fewer crop-destroying cold snaps, greater food production, fewer deaths from cold, less need for heating fuels, and less costly winter highway maintenance.

What of the Report’s supposed 4% (+/-2%) reduction in global GDP resulting from a purely conjectural 9°F global average temperature increase by 2090?  New York University physics professor Stephen Koonin, who was an Obama appointment as Undersecretary of Energy for Science, puts that claim in perspective. Assuming a very conservative 2% annual global GDP growth rate, “the U.S. economy in 2090 would be no more than two years behind where it would have been absent man-made climate change.” (WSJ 11/27/18).

Yes, climate is changing, and human activity, notably land use changes and fossil fuel combustion, is in part responsible. Whether human activity is the “dominant” cause remains debatable. Debatable, too, is whether the cost of reducing global fossil fuel combustion to non-threatening (to climate activists) levels demands too great a price in prosperity and human well-being.

Rational people are right to harbor serious doubts about this Report’s dire and highly speculative projections.

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

 

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December 4, 2018

by Rob Roper

David Blittersdorf of AllEarth Renewables has made a fortune by convincing Vermont politicians to force taxpayers to fund economically unviable schemes that would never survive on their own in the marketplace. His latest adventure in rent seeking is AllEarth Rail, an envisioned commuter rail service between St. Albans and the Global Foundries complex in Essex Junction (and, if the tax dollars flow thick enough, with future expansions to Montpelier, Middlebury and Rutland.

Blittersdorf has already purchased a dozen rail cars for this purpose, and Vermont Business Magazine reported that he recently invited some key legislators onto one for a posh breakfast in order to sell them on the idea of cutting him another fat, taxpayer funded check.

But, here’s how ridiculous this boondoggle is…

It takes about half an hour to drive from St. Albans to Essex Junction, door to door, and costs about six dollars worth of gasoline, round trip. Your car will take you exactly where you want to go and on your schedule.

But, if you opt for the AllEarth Rail option, you have to first drive from your home to the train station (don’t be late!), park, wait for the train, ride the train (which one expert predicts won’t be able travel more than 25 miles an hours), and then, unless you actually work at Global Foundries and that’s where you’re going, figure out how to get to your ultimate destination. It’s about a seven mile walk to either Burlington or Williston. Uber or a Cab? Taxifarefinder.com estimates that cost at about $20. Each way.

Honestly, how many people are going to choose the AllEarth Rail option here? Even if the train were subsidized to the point where the ticket was free (I can see Blittersdorf rubbing his hands together)…. Nobody is going to ride that train. Certainly nowhere near the numbers necessary to make the project economically intelligent. It only makes sense for people who live in St. Albans within walking distance of the train station and commute to Global Foundries. That’s not a lot of passengers, and if Global Foundries needs help getting workers to their campus, they can always charter a bus.

And how much in taxpayer subsidies will be necessary to get this led balloon off the ground? It’s not clear, but Vermont Business Magazine described the number as “a lot” and chronicled some estimated and potential costs, including just under $20 million for track upgrades, negotiated fees for using the rail lines, hundreds of thousands of dollars for new train stations, and the fact that AllEarth Rail would likely have to get a waiver from the federal law requiring “positive train control.” PTC is a rail safety technology mandated after a series of fatal commuter line crashes in 2008, which would apparently be prohibitively expensive for AllEarth Rail to install.

If the folks at AllEarth really believe in this idea, and really see a market for the service, then they should invest their own money and reap whatever profits the venture yields. If it were a good investment, this is exactly what they would do, and I would sincerely wish them every success. But taxpayers should not be forced to waste one cent on this fiscal train wreck.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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November 3, 2018

By David Flemming

Several months ago, Green Mountain Power received permission from the Department of Public Service (DPS) to raise Vermonters’ electric rates by 5.5%, due to GMP’s recent investments in Vermont’s electric grid. Last week, an ex-employee, Brian Winn, supported an anonymous letter to Vermont’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) protesting the lack of effort from the DPS (especially its commissioner) to negotiate the rate increase suggested by Green Mountain Power. The PUC’s response? ‘None of our business.’ Winn’s letter should be taken seriously, especially considering the questionable oversight from the DPS over Green Mountain Power during the past decade.

Among the letter’s most provocative claims were that: GMP “used an accounting gimmick… shorten(ing) the rate year to nine months” which would mean that the rate increase would be “at least 8%,” instead of the 5.45% which had been reported. DPS “Commissioner Tierney on multiple occasions altered Department witness testimony to remove information that would have been embarrassing to Green Mountain Power. This included removing recommendations about clearly uneconomic and risky investments… that would have saved the ratepayers money.”

In recent years, GMP has made some rather troubling investments, lending the letter a great deal of plausibility. Between 2011-16, Green Mountain Power failed to provide the DPS with documents showing that their investments were in Vermonters’ best interest, according to Vermont Public Radio. At one point, GMP was unable to properly document spending $18 million on wind turbines in the Northeast Kingdom, a cost which the DPS allowed GMP to pass along to its customer base, no questions asked.

The letter also insinuates that the DPS’ light touch on GMP involves career considerations. “Liz Miller, who used to be Commissioner (of the DPS) and signed off on the last very generous alternative regulation multi-year plan, is now representing Green Mountain Power in the new case.” The DPS’ Commissioner Tierney negotiating with GMP’s Miller, who sat where Tierney was sitting a few years ago. We’re left wondering if Tierney went easy on GMP so that she can walk into a higher paying job where she can negotiate against the public on behalf of the GMP.

By granting monopoly privileges, Vermont has incentivized monopolies to take advantage of bureaucrats who have every reason to look toward their next career move, rather than looking out for the common good. South Carolina has recently been looking into breaking up its utility monopolies. Perhaps Vermont should also consider such a move.

David Flemming is a policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute

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By Rob RoperRob Roper

A recent post-election news story contained this quote from a Middlebury voter that, from what I observed, captures the broad reality of where people’s heads have been: “I’ve been so focused on the federal government, I don’t know what’s going on in Vermont.” (VT Digger, 11/7/18) Well, here’s some of what’s been going on. And, yes, Vermonters better refocus their attention to local issues.

Two weeks before the November election, the credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded Vermont’s bond rating from Aaa to Aa1 due to our aging demographics and high pension fund liabilities. This will make it more difficult and more expensive for the state to borrow money as we now appear to investors less likely to be able to pay it back. This is another way of saying Vermont has no more tax capacity.

Between August and September, the state labor force declined by over 1000, as did the number of Vermonters employed. (vtlmi.info) As UVM economist Art Woolf pointed out, “The latest snapshot from the Vermont Department of Labor showed a decline of 500 jobs in September…. What is concerning is it’s on top of a loss of 700 jobs in August and 1,900 in July.”

And, just last week, a report from the president’s Council of Economic Advisers listed Vermont dead last in the nation for job growth with a 0.9 percent drop in employment, the only state out of all fifty with a negative number. This was not long after Kuerig Dr. Pepper, adding an anecdote to the statistic, announced on October 26th it was laying off 120 Vermont workers, about ten percent of its local work force.

This is in sharp contrast to the nation as a whole, which mostly has been enjoying an economic boom. Over the last year, for example, while Vermont’s median income fell by 2.4 percent, the national median income increased by 2.5 percent.

We are clearly doing something wrong.

The rest of the nation is demonstrating that tax cuts and the removal of costly regulations lead to economic growth and prosperity. Wages are rising organically as demand for labor increases. Good paying manufacturing jobs, once proclaimed gone for good, are coming back.

Vermont, however, is proving that high taxes and onerous regulations lead to economic stagnation, outmigration, and increased poverty. Will our legislators recognize this fact and change course? Sadly, it doesn’t appear so.

The incoming legislature is signaling that its priorities will be increasing the cost of doing businesses (employing workers) with a $15 minimum wage and a new payroll tax to pay for a government-run paid leave insurance program that, were it not mandatory, nobody would buy.

Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV), an environmental group that spent considerably on Vermont elections, is boasting that 20 (out of 30) of the state senators and 93 (out of 150) state representatives that they endorsed won their elections, and that VCV’s efforts gave Democrats and Progressives their new supermajorities. What does VCV want in return? Among other climate change-oriented policies, a Carbon Tax on Vermonters’ vehicle and home heating fuel. This is a household budget killer that will wreak havoc on the overall economy. (Of note, they are currently rioting in France because of a similar tax.)

Over the past two years, Governor Scott either vetoed or threatened to veto these policies because they make Vermont a less affordable place to live and work, and he and the House Republicans were largely successful in holding the line on no new taxes and fees. But now there are no longer enough Republicans in the House (just 43 out of 150) or Senate (6 out of 30) to sustain such vetoes.

I expect the Democrats and Progressives will argue that the failure to pass the Carbon Tax, the $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, etc. is more responsible for the poor economic situation we are facing, and not that merely holding the line on taxes and fees was just too little a step in the right direction. Now that the elections are over, I guess we’ll find out who’s right. Are Vermonters paying attention?

— Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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Subtle changes to VT tax law will result in higher income and property taxes for many Vermonters.

November 30, 2018

by Steve Cairns

In early 2018 Congress passed a sweeping change to US tax law, which immediately created a problem for Vermont.  As was widely reported then, if the VT legislature did nothing in response, there would have been about a $32 million increase in VT taxes due from residents in 2018.  This is because the VT law effectively begins the VT tax calculation with federal taxable income, a number that increases significantly for most taxpayers in 2018 as a result of the federal changes.

In 2017 the legislature changed the law for 2018 to begin the VT tax calculation with federal adjusted gross income (AGI) instead of taxable income (32 V.S.A § 5811(21)).  Then they modified this section to allow the same itemized deductions and exemptions as on the federal tax return which effectively got us back to the same VT taxable income as in prior years (H.516 Act 73) 1

The recently enacted VT tax legislation (H.16 Act 11 which was approved by the House & Senate during the 2018 Special Session, and allowed to go into law unsigned by the governor) contains many changes to both income tax and property tax.  Some of these changes to 32 V.S.A § 5811(21) 2,3 will have a positive effect on many Vermonters.

  • Reduction of tax rates at all levels
  • Creation of a deduction for some or all taxable social security
  • Creation of a 5% charitable contribution credit capped at $20,000 of donations
  • Creation of standard deductions and exemptions
  • Increase of the VT Earned Income Tax Credit to 36% from 32% of the Federal EITC

However, there is a subtle but dramatic change to the income tax law that will result in a noticeable increase in VT income tax for many taxpayers.  That change is the removal of all federal deductions that remain for federal taxpayers.  This was clearly stated in multiple documents that came out of the Joint Fiscal Office, but it was never revealed directly what the impact that this simple change would have on many VT taxpayers.  By thoroughly reviewing the available JFO documents, 4,5,6 it becomes obvious that many VT taxpayers with greater than $100K of gross income will be paying higher income tax in 2018 than they paid in 2017 on the same income; as much as 11% or more.  Virtually everyone that I have talked to (including legislators) have no clue these changes are coming.  Furthermore, the administration elected to NOT change the withholding tables, so many more taxpayers will be under withheld when it comes to filing their returns next year.

The total projected income tax increase amounts to $1.8 million.   However, there is an additional tax burden shift up the income scale of $10.2 million to pay for the reduction of taxes outlined above.  So in all, the shift of income taxes to Vermont’s middle and upper income taxpayers amounts to about $12 million.

With the exception of a single article that briefly discussed this increase and burden shift back in early March, there was no press about this.  It seems that after the proposed income surtax to pay for education expenses was shot down by the Senate Finance committee, the remaining income tax increase was ignored by the press and the legislators.  I am obliged to inform you of these changes and recommend that all who may be affected should review their withholding or estimated payments with their tax advisor.  I would further recommend that everyone ask their legislators why they increased income taxes on some Vermonters when there is a significant surplus this year.

But wait, there’s more.  Not content with this shift of the income tax burden up the income scale, the legislature also increased property taxes for some resident homeowners.  They did this by reducing the available property tax credit to some:

  • The maximum housesite value that a VT homeowner with less than $90K of household income can receive a credit on has been reduced from $500K to $400K. This is effective July 1, 2018 and can result in more than a $1,200 reduction in property tax credit on the same income for the coming year.
  • The maximum housesite value that a VT homeowner with $90K or more of household income can receive a credit on has been reduced from $250K to $225K again resulting in decreased property tax credits of several hundred dollars for many.

Again, I believe the press missed most of this and failed to inform VT taxpayers of the potential negative impacts of these changes. There will be many unwanted surprises for unsuspecting taxpayers next tax season.  Some have already found out how much more they will be paying when they opened their new property tax bills.

Conclusion

Both Winston Churchill and Rahm Emmanuel have been credited as saying “Never let a good crisis go to waste”.  Look at the VT legislature’s response to the 2018 federal tax cuts and you will see what they mean.  The federal tax changes created a crisis for Vermont.  The majority in the legislature used this crisis to sneak in a tax increase on the “wealthy” while at the same time touting that they dropped the tax rates.  They increased income taxes by almost $2 million according to the aforementioned JFO reports.  In addition, they shifted the tax burden higher by adding low income benefits that are financed by an additional increase in tax of over $10 million on those over $100K of Adjusted Gross Income.  The response to the federal changes is not revenue neutral, as many wanted including the administration.  With all the hoopla over the federal changes, a potential income tax surcharge for education and the end of session tussle over the non-resident property tax rates, the legislature failed to inform their electorate either directly or through the press of what they were doing to increase taxes.  In my high school English class, this type of behavior was referred to as deception.  The supporters of this increase should be ashamed.

Steve Cairns, EA, Advisor Tax Services

References:

  1. https://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2018/Docs/ACTS/ACT073/ACT073%20As%20Enacted.pdf (pages 21- 24)
  2. https://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2018.1/Docs/Acts/ACT011/ACT011%20As%20Enacted.pdf (pages 209-215 and pages 223-226)
  3. https://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2018.1/WorkGroups/House%20Ways%20and%20Means/Bills/H.16/W~Peter%20Griffin~H.16%20section%20by%20section%20summary~6-22-2018.pdf
  4. https://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2018/WorkGroups/House%20Ways%20and%20Means/Bills/H.911/W~Graham%20Campbell~H.911%20%20House%20vs.%20Senate%20Finance%20Comparison~5-3-2018.pdf (see chart on page 4)
  5. https://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2018/WorkGroups/Senate%20Finance/Bills/H.911/H.911~Graham%20Campbell~H.911%20Decision%20Points~4-25-2018.pdf (see examples on page 7)
  6. http://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/education/Proposed%20Legislation/H.911%20income%20provision%20comparison.pdf

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By John McClaughry

The Vermont Digger headline a day after the elections well captured the enthusiasm of the newly elected legislative majorities: “Democratic supermajority comes with sky-high expectations”.  The final House tally was 102 Democrats and Progressives, 43 Republicans, and five independents. The Senate will be 24-6. Both chambers now have the 2/3 majorities needed to override any veto by Republican Governor Phil Scott.

The Democrats’ will start with passing another $15 an hour minimum wage bill and a payroll-taxed financed parental leave bill, both of which Scott vetoed last session. But that’s just the unfinished business. With unrestrained legislative power in their hands, all of the issues that excite the liberal imagination will compete for a high rank on the “must pass” list.

Carbon Tax: This measure, first offered in 2014, is now disguised as carbon pricing, pollution fees, decarbonization, cap-and-trade, greenhouse gas initiative, etc. after the initial, straightforward “carbon tax” aroused massive resistance. The recent UN IPCC SR1.5 report, telling Americans that we have only a few years left before it will be too late to rescue the dying climate, will be weaponized to create a huge new tax resource for state government, but produce no detectable effect on climate.

Welfare increases: The $15 minimum wage will only benefit lower-wage workers who aren’t priced or automated out of their jobs. Much more compulsion will be needed to that assure everyone enjoys a “Livable Wage”. Mandating employers to pay it avoids making taxpayers pay it, but mandating that employers stay in Vermont could prove troublesome.

Act 250 Expansion: A stacked six-member legislative commission will report in January on how to strengthen Act 250 after fifty years. Likely recommendations: make Act 250 apply to the smaller developments not now covered, make every development satisfy regulators that it will have no net adverse effect on climate change, and mandate that almost all change occur in state-designated growth centers.

Health Care: High on the agenda will be forcing all individual Vermonters to buy state-approved health insurance, or suffer a financial penalty. The legislature will compliantly support moving forward with the UVM Medical Center-dominated “All Payer” mega-system as a way station toward reviving the single payer plan that collapsed in December 2014.

Energy: It’s likely that the legislature will put into state law Gov. Shumlin’s fiat that Vermont must obtain 90% of its total energy needs from renewable sources by 2050. This fiat, once actually enacted, will invite legislators to push through a lengthy list of mandates, prohibitions, regulations and taxes designed to drive up energy prices to benefit the Renewable Industrial Complex and its political friends.

Labor: The legislature may try to find some workaround to avoid complying with the Supreme Court’s holding that compelled “agency fees” to labor unions are blatantly unconstitutional.

Education: The legislature will cheerfully advance the centralization of control over public education spurred by Act 46, and try to choke off every path for parents and children to escape to independent (non-unionized) schooling. They’ll make universal pre-K programs mandatory, publicly controlled, and unionized, despite no evidence that U-Pre-K actually improves educational outcomes. They’ll move onward toward replacing the school homestead property tax with income taxes, with little consideration of the effects of much higher income tax rates on the economy.

Gun Control: Having breached the constitutional barrier in 2018, the gun control advocates will try to ban “assault rifles” and prohibit possession of firearms not just by persons judicially adjudged as “extreme risks” (current law), but also by persons subject to much less demanding  “relief of abuse” orders.

The new legislature will be faced with a deepening liability for state employee and teacher pension and health care benefit obligations, now totaling an astounding $4.5 billion. Failure to a least modestly reverse the trend will result in lowered bond ratings and higher cost of borrowing.

The 2018 legislative leadership recognized this problem and appropriated a one-time extra $36.2 million, but with supermajorities clamoring for immediate spending on pet programs, it’s hard to see how reducing the pension fund inadequacies can compete.

The new legislative majorities will be intoxicated with the declaration put into law in Gov. Shumlin’s 2012 budget bill that “Spending and revenue policies will reflect the public policy goals established in State law and recognize every person’s need for health, housing, dignified work, education, food, social security, and a healthy environment.”

That lofty purpose neglects a few other considerations, like a business friendly, job-creating economy, and most people’s need to keep the ever growing Nanny State off of their back and out of their wallets.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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November 27, 2018

by John McClaughry

Bill McKibben, the activist in residence at Middlebury College, has written a long piece in the November 22 issue of New Yorker. To many readers it will be a persuasive explanation of the terrors of climate change, with its sea level rises, fires, floods, and droughts,.

Bill McKibben with a grocery cart full of environmentally degrading plastic bags.

McKibben like Bernie Sanders lays the blame on ExxonMobil and the Koch Brothers as the major culprits who have blocked dramatic action by the world to stop emitting greenhouse gases.

But the paragraph that caught my eye was this: “Even if a carbon tax somehow made it past the GOP, the amount Exxon says it wants—$40 a ton—is tiny compared to what the IPCC’s analysts say would be required to make a real dent in the problem. And in return the proposed legislation would relieve the oil companies of all liability for the havoc they’ve caused. IPCC estimates that avoiding “catastrophic anthropogenic global warming” requires governments to impose carbon dioxide taxes of between $135 and $5,500 per metric ton”.

Here in Vermont, McKibben and the carbon tax advocates want to put a tax on heating oil, gasoline, diesel, propane and natural gas that rises to $40 a ton after eight years. If the whole world did that, according to McKibben it would produce only 30 percent of the absolute bare minimum needed to make any difference to Planet Earth. So they’ll demand to quadruple the tax, and make you pay it.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 

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November 26, 2018

by Rob Roper

Burning cars lit the Arc D’Triumph on Champs-Élysées in that Democratic Socialist paradise of Paris, France, this week as thousands of angry citizens protested that country’s Carbon Tax on vehicle fuels. Tear gas and water cannons were used to dispel the crowd. This was, according to the BBC, one of 1,600 protests across France on Saturday.

The source of citizen ire is primarily a fuel tax on gasoline and diesel fuel amounting to 3.9 euro cents per liter on the former and 7 on the latter. Another increase of 2.9 cents 6.5 cents respectively is set for January 1, 2019 with the promise of more to come. But, beyond the fuel tax, the BBC reports that the protests also “grew to reflect anger at rising living costs, particularly in rural areas, and other grievances against President Macron’s policies.”

Hmm. Sounds a lot like Vermont, doesn’t it?

French President Macron “insisted that the fuel tax rises are a necessary pain to reduce France’s dependence on fossil fuels and fund renewable energy investments, which is a cornerstone of his reforms of the nation.”

Sounds like the French president is wildly out of touch with the actual priorities of his people. This is what happens when politicians serve an ideology rather than the interests of the people who elected them. Which also sounds a lot like Vermont.

When our legislature returns in January, expect the new supermajorities of Democrats and Progressives to bring back a Vermont Carbon Tax bill. The Vermont Conservation Voters, a group that spend considerable money helping to elect these folks, has made this one of their priorities. If it passes, it will make Vermont a less affordable place to live, especially for rural, working Vermonters. The question is, who will our politicians serve?

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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