Commentary: Montpelier Tax Spree Is Inexcusable (May, 2015)

by Wendy WiltonWendy Rotator Card

The 2015 Doyle poll and others leading up to the 2014 election indicated the majority of Vermonters were stretched to their tax limit for property and income taxes. The gubernatorial race was evidence of this outrage.

In the last two weeks the majority of legislators in the Vermont House voted to ignore the concerns of their constituents and went on a taxation spree. This action is inexplicable given the financial predicament of the state due to shrinking revenues and soft economic growth.  It appears the consensus and camaraderie of their committee meant more to them than the fiscal future of the state and its people.

The majority in the House passed or is likely to pass a collection of bills increasing taxes $130 million mainly on the middle class.  These tax increases come from a new tax bill (H.489), increases in education spending, environmental taxes, increased fees, a sugar-sweetened beverage tax, and a big increase to the general fund budget which will mean higher income taxes.

The appropriation bill (H.490) increases state spending by $68 million, or 4.8%–well beyond the economic growth rate.  Worse, this budget has $24 million in one-time funds baked-in to shore up this budget increase, which will need to be found in future years.  This is a pattern the governor and legislature have repeated for several years which is how we got into this jam.

If the Senate agrees, the proposals will increase income taxes on middle income Vermonters by nearly 10%, according to former Tax Commissioner Tom Pelham’s analysis, not including property taxes.  The number of ‘wealthy’ Vermont taxpayers is relatively small and insufficient to carry this burden—debunking the myth that taxing the rich is a solution.  Vermont’s middle-incomers are closing in on their retirement years and will be making choices about where retirement will be sustainable.  Will it be here?

The legislature must consider the impacts of these decisions not just for this year but for the years ensuing.  Find out how your legislators voted at ethanallen.org under Roll Calls.  They must be held accountable for these actions by expressing your outrage to them individually.

– Wendy Wilton, is treasurer for the City of Rutland, and a member of the Ethan Allen Institute board of directors.

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