Commentary: Two Thirds of Vermonters Want a Carbon Tax? (July, 2016)

by John McClaughryJohn McClaughry

On July 7 Energy Independent Vermont, the coalition of enviro groups headed by the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG), announced the findings of its statewide poll on its proposal for a Vermont carbon tax. The poll found that 63 percent of respondents supported the carbon tax, while 31 percent opposed it (six percent were undecided).

But before we take that seriously, maybe we ought to inquire into exactly what question was asked by the EIV pollsters.

Here’s the question. Take a deep breath – it’s one hundred words long: “The Energy Independent Vermont proposal would do the following: Establish a statewide Energy Independence Fund to help voters reduce their home heating and transportation costs and weatherize public buildings, like schools; finance the Energy Independence Fund with a carbon pollution tax paid by the companies that import oil, gas and other fossil fuels into Vermont; it would not apply to electricity; cut state taxes for all Vermonters and Vermont businesses, with additional rebates for low income Vermonters, so that we are protected from fossil fuel companies passing on their costs. Does that sound like something you would support, or oppose?”

Given the attention span of most people responding to telephone poll questions, what do you suppose came across? “New fund to help us voters – pay my heat and auto bills – tax businesses that import pollution –tax cuts for everybody.” What’s not to like?

Well, to start with, Merriam Webster defines “Pollution” as “the action or process of making land, water, air, etc., dirty and not safe or suitable to use”. That describes emissions like sulfur dioxide, ozone, VOCs, and particulates that have indisputably harmful effects on human health.  But atmospheric carbon dioxide has no negative effects on human health. We breathe it out all the time, and it is the planet’s leading plant food. Nonetheless, the enviro groups battling “climate change” seized on the idea of labelling CO2 emissions “pollution” for the plain reason that pollution is bad – yuk!

Then we learn from the question that only those nasty businesses importing pollution into Vermont will suffer from the carbon pollution tax. What if those companies pass on the carbon pollution tax, in higher prices to homeowners, motorists, truckers, industry, farms, schools, and so on? The question admits that the tax will be passed on to consumers, but tells respondents that everyone will get a tax reduction to protect them from the tax-inflated energy costs. (The EIV bill specifies a reduction in the sales tax from 6% to 5%, plus selective rebates.)

Note that there wouldn’t even be any higher costs for fuel oil dealers, gasoline distributors, and natural gas companies to pass on to consumers, were it not for the new tax.  And note also: the question doesn’t claim the tax will be “revenue neutral”, because it won’t. Even if the legislature were to include offsetting tax reductions to “protect us from the tax” it just increased, the proposal has a ten percent revenue skim-off to subsidize wind, solar and weatherization interests. For them, the proposal would generate tax revenues of $50 million a year by 2028, a thought that certainly has occurred to the interests that are financing the carbon tax campaign now.

Let’s turn the poll question on its head. “Would you support or oppose a tax on heating oil, gasoline, diesel, natural gas and propane, to increase the cost to consumers of those products, with ninety percent of such higher costs offset by selected tax reductions, unless the legislature redirects the revenues to other programs?”  I’m quite sure EIV will not be asking that question.

The five major party candidates for Governor aren’t being very supportive. Republicans Phil Scott and Bruce Lisman have answered that question with a resounding No, and a promise of a veto. Democrat Matt Dunne said he preferred to fight “climate change” with a “cap and trade” plan (proposed by VPIRG and Sen. Shumlin in 2010). Democrats Sue Minter and Peter Galbraith said they wouldn’t support a carbon tax just in Vermont. Like Shumlin, Dunne and Galbraith live on the New Hampshire side of the state, and are clearly sensitive to the potential migration of energy-related commerce into states that didn’t enact a carbon tax.

What the EIV polling investment makes clear, along with VPIRG’s summer deployment of 55 carbon tax canvassers, is that the carbon tax advocates believe that in early 2017 they will have 2-1 public support for installing their $500 million a year (in 2028) tax.

That might be overly optimistic. Put the carbon tax question to your candidates for the legislature, and see how many brighten up and say “Yesss!”

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

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Roger Joslin July 18, 2016 at 8:59 pm

The carbon tax is the most stupid thing these idiots have come up with in years. Vermonter, people who actually live and work here, to survive, cannot afford this tax and the best part is, it won’t cure any problems, perceived or otherwise.

Reply

Mark Donka July 18, 2016 at 11:00 pm

The carbon tax will cost all Vermonters more to heat their homes and drive to work(those who work can find work) at minimum. But will also increase costs for goods as transportation will be more expensive. It will also hurt border towns(on the NH&NY borders). If I can save .88 cents or more to drive to NH, who wouldn’t?
This one of the reasons I am running for Windsor County Senate. I will vote against carbon tax and any other tax that is above a balanced budget. It is time we live within our means.

Reply

Penelope Keith July 19, 2016 at 12:05 am

I do Not support the Carbon tax and I don’t believe your poll numbers are correct. People are leaving Vt. because they can’t afford to live here. Vt is not business friendly so the tax revenues aren’t great in that area. People with decent retirement either left or are leaving. I have NEVER heard any (working) person say Yes! we need another tax in Vt. I know a carbon tax will decide whether I stay here. There are places a lot cheaper to live that are prettier with a better climate.

Reply

H. Brooke Paige July 19, 2016 at 3:17 am

A Pickpocket by Any Other Name . . . !

The carbon tax is nothing more than another “redistribution” scheme designed to pick the pockets of hard working Vermonters (or visitors to our little state) and hand the proceeds over to our “astute” state legislature and officials to hand out as they see fit. There is no specific formula that insures the citizens of Vermont that the proceeds will not be handed out as political plums to their favorite political “mentors” (like VPTIG) or squandered on unproductive plans and schemes. So let’s put this little “game” (socialist con) back on the shelf and find something useful to concentrate our attention on – something that will yield increased productivity or reduce the negative effects of governance.

H. Brooke Paige
Democratic Candidate for Governor and Attorney General

Reply

Howard Smith July 19, 2016 at 12:42 pm

I am from Vermont. Notice I said “from”. When someone asks me where I am from, I tell them I was born and brought up in Vermont, got smart and left. I would bet that if you polled the 63%, and they answered honestly, “HA HA”, that they came from out of state for the Vermont way of life, and now they want to change it to the way it was in there home state. I still have a lot of family there, which I still visit regularly. Just couldn’t live there any more.

Reply

Ed Brault August 2, 2016 at 12:04 am

When people ask where I am from I tell them “I escaped from the Peoples Republic of Vermont.” For all the above reasons. After I retired, I just couldn’t afford to live there anymore. Property taxes, energy costs, heating fuel, gasoline, groceries, and a draconian vehicle inspection designed to force me to replace a perfectly good vehicle simply because of some body rust caused by the infernal road brine that destroys the under-body.

Reply

jim bulmer August 1, 2016 at 9:53 pm

2/3rds Vermonters want a carbon tax????? If so, they are yearning for a good kick in the butt and one shot in each foot!! Would someone get real for a change????????

Reply

John October 10, 2016 at 3:32 pm

I cannot fathom that this tax is even being talked about, or even that “a poll” states that 2/3 of the state supports it. I have spoken to 10 of my neighbors last week. 9 have never heard of this and all were disgusted that it is even being proposed.
STOP the MADNESS
John

Reply

shirley peltier October 11, 2016 at 4:12 pm

probably wont do any good to say no the legistators are obviously not in touch with reality of most vermonters struggling now to add this tax would bankrupt the majority remember to ask the candidates just who and what they support

Reply

Peter Farmer November 14, 2016 at 11:35 am

As you point out CO2 is plant food. NASA data proves the world is greening as CO2 levels have exceeded 400 ppm from the 300 ppm early last century. Fossil fuels emit CO2, but burn clean. The logic that taxing fossil fuels in Vermont will do anything other than letting an activist take a selfie, defies logic. Higher fuel cost simply promotes burning wood, a renewable, bringing back Vermont of the 1800 with its smoke choked hollows.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

About Us

The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.
Read more...

Latest News

William Galston on Sanders’ single payer

by John McClaughry William Galston, a White House advisor in the Clinton years, is the thoughtful moderate Democrat columnist for the Wall Street Journal. He had a piece...

Sanderscare: What is Bernie Thinking?

by David Flemming Once again, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has decided to beat the drum for single-payer healthcare (Medicare for All!) Will he ever realize he’s beating a...

Mathis Forgets G.I. Bill Was A Voucher Program

by Bruce Buxton This piece is a response to an Op-Ed by William Mathis of the Vermont State School Board, which can be read HERE.  Mr. Mathis is...

Are We Paying Parents to Keep Kids In Poverty?

by Rob Roper An article in Seven Days reminded us that back in 2007 the Vermont legislature set a goal to cut child poverty in half in ten...

Advocate: Raise Minimum Wage Till It Hurts!

by David Flemming On Sept. 6, David Cooper of the Economic Policy Institute (a Left leaning, Washington-based think tank founded by a coalition of eight labor unions) testified...

Video