The Vermont Tax Structure Commission has delivered its report, and its recommendations should trigger an intense debate. Switching public education support to the income tax and expanding the sales tax to include services will be very controversial. It’s regrettable that the legislature didn’t begin with a performance review, to decide what state government should be doing with $4.5 billion a year, and then address the tax structure needed to pay for it.
If we don’t transfer more power from the governor to the Legislature during emergencies, a ‘climate emergency’ declared by a future governor could be catastrophic for Vermont democracy.
The Public Utility Commission, at the direction of the legislature, has “joined the chorus of voices seeking climate action”. Its all-fuels energy report takes note of the state’s ambitious carbon dioxide emission reduction goals, and almost screams what’s needed on every page: “More Funding!”
The Vermont Tax Structure Commission released its 180 page draft report to the legislature in January, and one of the major recommendations it makes is to expand Vermont’s 6% sales tax, currently limited to non-essential goods and a few select services, to all goods and services except healthcare. Doing this would be accompanied by an overall rate reduction to 3.6%.
A discouraging report from the American Enterprise Institute finds that the expenditure of billions of new dollars on public education has done almost nothing to close the reading and math gap between higher- and lower-income students. Maybe we should be looking for more promising alternatives.
Vermont’s state employee and teacher retirement funds, plus their associated Other Post Employment Benefit obligations, now total $5.657 billion – a Billion dollar increase in just the past year. The pension funds are just 66.4% and 52.3% funded, respectively. The clock is ticking toward calamity, including downgrading the state’s credit ratings.
Responding to an email inquiry from a concerned citizen about the real impact – and cost -- of the Global Warming Solutions Act, passed last spring over the veto of Governor Phil Scott (R), Representative Scott Campbell (D-St. Johnsbury) admitted, “Let me start by repeating that no one, least of all me, believes Vermont can stop climate change — or even affect climate change. It’s tempting to focus on that narrow issue because of the specific metrics in the law, namely the required greenhouse gas reduction thresholds (leaving aside the unfortunate name of the Act),” and, “GWSA will not ‘mitigate’ climate change…” Thanks for the honesty!
On December 21 Gov. Phil Scott bailed out of the proposed 12-state Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), at least for 2021. Only three of the twelve hoped-for state participants have agreed to implement TCI (Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island). Eight others, including Vermont, agree to keep on meeting, talking and negotiating, but the process is likely on life support. The twelfth state, New Hampshire, wants nothing to do with TCI.
Meet Your new Climate Government: The Global Warming Solutions Act, enacted over Gov. Scott’s veto, establishes a 23-member Vermont Climate Council to create a Plan directing state agencies to adopt rules to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Fourteen of the 15 legislative appointees are screened and true climate activists. They outnumber the administration appointees, and the lone fuel sector member, 14-9. Hold on to your wallet.
The Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), referring to the organization itself rather than the policy, has put off publication of their final proposal for a multi-state, regional carbon tax on gasoline and diesel fuel for well over half a year. Originally, they promised to release it in the spring of 2020, then hinted at summer, and are currently operating under a promise to do so this fall – a window rapidly closing. Presumably, the delays are part of a strategy to hold off until a politically opportune time. It doesn’t appear such a time will ever transpire. Increasingly, TCI looks dead on arrival.
The latest blow comes from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, who, up until a very short time ago, was TCI’s biggest cheerleader. But now, according to the Boston Herald, “Gov. Charlie Baker said governors are re-evaluating support of a controversial carbon tax designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions….”