2-18-15 – The Fee Bill and the Looter Mentality

by Rob Roper

Our legislature is about to pass the largest fee increase in Vermont’s history: some $26 million in new costs to the citizenry. This encompasses more expensive marriage licenses, vehicle registrations, business licenses, etc. A big chunk of this fee bonanza will come from a doubling of the fee to sell mutual funds in the State.

Here it important to point out what is supposed to distinguish a fee from a tax. A fee is supposed to cover the cost of administering a program related to the fee. Ie, the marriage license fee goes to pay for the administrative costs of keeping a record of who gets hitched. The fee rate is set to match that cost of the clerk and the paperwork — and no more. A tax, however, goes into the general fund for whatever the legislature sees fit to spend it on.

Which gets us back to that massive increase in the Mutual Fund fee. It will not go toward the administration of mutual fund licensing, but rather to the general fund to pay for a new program and to plug a budget shortfall. In other words, this is a de facto tax, and an abuse of the fee process.

Sadly, there is little likelihood for pushback on this issue. Vanguard, Fidelity, American Funds, etc. probably aren’t going to take the time or spend the political capital to put up a fight in little old Vermont. The legislature will do this because they can get away with it and, as proponents of the idea point out, other states are getting away with it. It’s the looter mentality.

Just because somebody tosses a rock through a storefront window, and everybody else starts grabbing goodies, it doesn’t make it morally okay.

One last thought on this: Speaker Smith justified raising the Mutual Fund saying, “Bringing Vermont into alignment with its neighbors is a sensible move,” according to Vermont Digger. If that’s the right thing to do, I wonder where the Speaker stands on aligning our sales and income tax rates with our neighbor, New Hampshire?

– Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

David February 20, 2016 at 3:45 pm

They are just trying to fill a budget that was of there own inadiqaseys if it is a tax it would make it eligible for a deduction on tax bills
A fee is not and a such should only cover costs
This is ROBERY


H. Brooke Paige February 20, 2016 at 8:35 pm

Time to Get Out the Pitchforks and Light the Torches !

The 2016 Election Cycle may well be the “last stand” for responsible governance in Vermont. The Gypsies and Thieves have taken over the State House and have been running their “games of chance” and fortune telling sessions for several years, yet the good citizens of Vermont have been too busy trying to keep their bills paid to realize that these rogues and scoundrels have been picking their pockets and stealing their children’s inheritance.

The time has come for all of us to get the pitchforks from the barn, light the torches and head for Montpelier to rid the “Golden Dome” of the pestilence that has taken up residence there!

H. Brooke Paige
Washington, Vermont


samuel shultis February 22, 2016 at 3:14 pm

excellent –


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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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