By Rob Roper
Before Peter Shumlin became governor, he famously said that there was no more tax capacity left in Vermont. We were “tapped out.” Since then, Shumlin and majorities in the legislature have passed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new taxes and fees. Despite this, the state still deals with a consistent structural budget deficit and revenue shortfalls.
Many of our politicians, like Shumlin, pay lip service to hearing Vermonters’ pain when it comes to our tax burdens and overspending by the state, but their records tell a different story. And these particular zebras aren’t going to change their stripes. Just look at the tax and spending proposals that are on the table for tapped out Vermonters to contemplate for 2017.
The carbon tax
This is ultimately a $500 million dollar per year excise tax on fossil fuels. This translates into adding 88¢ to each gallon of gasoline, $1.02 per gallon of diesel and home heating oil, and similar increases for propane, natural gas, kerosene, butane and aviation fuel. Proponents say that 90 percent of the revenue collected would be returned via a variety redistribution schemes (keep in mind that households making over 200 percent of poverty level, or about $25,000, will not qualify for rebates and will get stuck with the bill), but hedge that promise by admitting the state is always free to find other uses for the money.
In 2014, Rep. Tony Klein (D-East Montpelier), chair of the House Energy & Natural Resources gave an interview stating, about the carbon tax, that “it’s at least a three-year process,” and that “you don’t [pass a massive tax increase] in an election year.” This means 2017 – after this November’s election – is the target for passage.
The primary carbon tax bill presented in the 2015-16 biennium has 28 sponsors, all Democrats and Progressives, including Democratic Lt. Gubernatorial candidate Kesha Ram. All three Democratic candidates for governor, Matt Dunne, Peter Galbraith, and Sue Minter, support some version of a carbon tax.
Dr. Dynasaur 2.0
This program would essentially expand children’s Medicaid benefits to adults 18-26 years old. It has a total price tag of $400 million, and ignores the fact that Medicaid is already the primary reason for the state’s structural budget deficit. Additionally, removing these young, healthy Vermonters from the private insurance market would cause private insurance rates to skyrocket. Despite all this, a majority in the legislature voted last year to spend $100,000 to