State News, Uncategorized

A reality check

During House discussion of H.850 last week, which removes the controversial 5% cap on the equalized homestead rates for education, the chair of the House Ways & Means Committee repeated the obvious: Spending increases generally cause tax increases. And that is the predicament that K-12 education budgets are in right now. If there were minor increases in education budgets, they might be covered by some growth in the 

Grand List and modest inflation on products on which the sales tax is applied.

That will not be the case this year if current proposed budgets are approved by voters. Statewide, property tax rates are expected to increase 20% or more if voters approve them. And while the Legislature is poised to allow schools more time to adjust their budgets before presenting them to voters, it is unclear how many will take advantage of the extra time to reduce their proposals. Several superintendents have been critical of the Legislature changing the rules, with some indicating it was contributing to additional challenges and uncertainty. However, with large school spending increases under consideration, something must change.

The reality of revenue constraints to fund the annual state budget is also beginning to register with lawmakers, but not necessarily with advocacy groups. At last week’s public hearing, Appropriation Committee members heard from members of various groups requesting more funding than is in the current budget proposal. While each ask may be for a beneficial and worthwhile cause, the only way to accommodate the requests is to raise taxes or reduce spending in another area.

There is no surplus money this year.

In the coming weeks, spending and taxes will come under scrutiny in both education and the state budget.

Other news

  • At his weekly press conference last week, the governor reiterated that improving public safety was one of his top priorities and didn’t think the Legislature was doing enough to combat crime. Some legislators argue that Scott didn’t fund the requested 15 new positions in the Judiciary and the state’s attorneys believe the administration’s budget will force reduction of prosecutors (the governor proposed 5% increase for state’s attorneys and sheriffs, which is more than the 3.5% overall state budget increase).
  • A Senate committee advanced a housing bill that includes a rental registry program and applies the same health department regulations to short-term rentals as they apply to other lodging establishments. The legislation also includes some regulatory changes to enable more housing.
  • The House Ways & Means Committee is reviewing several options to generate more revenue to support E-911 service and community access TV. Under consideration is a change to how telecom taxes are assessed as well as a new $15 per telephone pole tax that will likely be reflected in utility rates.
  • New estimates from the Public Service Dept. put the added cost of the legislation under consideration in the House of H.289 at $1 billion over the next 10 years. The bill requires 100% renewable energy for electric generation by 2030. PSD’s estimate includes $500 million for the increased cost of power generation and another $500 million for transmission infrastructure. Groups backing the renewable energy bill believe the actual cost will be much less.
  • The House Ways & Means Committee continues to explore adding a surcharge on higher income families (those earning $500,000+) as well as taxing unrealized capital gains on taxpayers with higher net worths ($10 million+).

Voters can login into the My Voter Page at: at the Secretary of State’s office to request an absentee ballot for the upcoming town meeting and/or access information on their town ballot questions.
Unless postponed for revisions to their proposed school budget, district meetings will be held:

Mountain Views District Public Information Hearing

Thursday, Feb. 29, 6:30 p.m.

Woodstock Union Middle and High School

(zoom link available at:

Barstow Public Informational Meeting

Tuesday, Feb. 27, 6:30 p.m.

Barstow School, Chittenden

(zoom link available at: 

Jim Harrison is the state representative for Chittenden, Killington, Mendon and Pittsfield. He can be reached at or

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