By Sarah Olsen, VTDigger.org
On Tuesday, June 16, on the shore of Lake Champlain, Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill that aims to improve the quality of the state’s waterways .
The bill, H.35, raises money through a 0.2 percent surcharge on the state’s property transfer tax. The first $100,000 of the sale price is exempt from the surcharge if the the property is the seller’s primary residence. The first $200,000 is exempt from the surcharge if the purchaser obtains certain government-funded mortgages. The 0.2 percent surcharge is on top of the current transfer tax rate of 1.25 percent, according to the Vermont Department of Taxes. The surcharge will end in 2018 and is expected to raise $5.3 million in fiscal year 2016.
The law allocates $2.6 million of new money in 2016 to support eight new positions at the Agency of Agriculture and 13 at the Department of Environmental Conservation. The agencies will use the money to enforce water quality regulations and educate the public about phosphorus pollution that is causing the formation of potentially toxic blue green algae blooms.
Shumlin said the bill will provide roughly $8.2 million from state funds, and $5 million has been pledged by Green Mountain Power for water quality improvements. More federal money is coming with the help of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the governor said.
The bill creates a Clean Water Fund that tracks money to be used to improve water quality. It also places fees on pollution permits, medium- and large-farm registrations and sales of non-agricultural fertilizer and pesticides.
A 2013 report prepared by the Department of Environmental Conservation found that it would cost more than $155 million annually for 10 years to clean up Lake Champlain.