Surplus shows why VT needs a Taxpayer Bill of Rights

July 26, 2019

by Rob Roper

So, the numbers are in and Vermont ended its fiscal year with nearly a $60 million revenue surplus. ($58.4 million to be exact, or 4.5% above forecasts.) This is largely thanks to an extra $43.5 million in personal income tax collections and $38 million in corporate income taxes.

Sixty million in a state of 620,000 is not a small amount of cash. It’s a little less than $100 for every Vermont man, woman and child (roughly speaking, $400 for a family of four). Think of this as the amount the state government overcharged you in the 2019 fiscal year for services provided.

In a just world, or in the private sector, when the customer gives the service provider more than necessary to meet the contract – handing over a $10 bill to pay for an $8 sandwich, for example –the provider gives the customer back the surplus amount in change.

But this is government. “Progressive” government. So, they’re gonna just keep that money because they are smarter than you and can find better uses for it. This is your money. If a private company operated this way, Vermont’s Attorney General would be first in line bringing a lawsuit for unfair or fraudulent business practices.

This is why Vermont needs a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). TABOR basically states that any revenue raised beyond what was required to meet the fiscal year’s budgeted obligations must be returned to the taxpayers. Period. End of discussion.

Colorado passed a TABOR in 1992, and it has been at the heart of that state’s long-running economic success. The Denver Post explains their law:

  • Limits how many tax dollars governments can keep using a formula that adjusts each year based on population and inflation. It’s called the TABOR cap, and anything a government collects above the cap gets returned as a TABOR tax refund.
  • Limits when lawmakers can ask voters to raise taxes. They can’t use special elections and only questions related to TABOR or taxes can be on the ballot in odd-numbered years.
  • Requires those asking for a tax hike to put the total amount they expect to collect first in the ballot language and then explain how that money would be used.
  • Prohibits charging certain Coloradans more in taxes than others — as the federal government does with its income brackets.
  • Bans raising certain kinds of taxes, like one on real estate transfers.

It would be nice if Vermont had something similar, wouldn’t it. You’d be looking forward to a $100 rebate check in the mail instead of feeling ripped off.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Bressette July 27, 2019 at 2:26 am

Vermont needs a taxpayer bill of rights. When a surplus is had, give it back to the people. It is crazy expensive to live in Vt.

Reply

Bob McDowell July 27, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Unfortunately, we need to put away money to pay the open-ended pension obligations.

Better yet, make all benefits DEFINED CONTRIBUTION.

Reply

Walter Orr July 27, 2019 at 7:56 pm

Let’s see what they do with it. My guess is they will squander it on foolish initiatives rather than earmark it for the underfunded pensions. Why are they robbing money from other tax sources like the rooms and meals tax to clean up Lake Champlain why not use this or refund it as mentioned to the tax payers?

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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.
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