There is a proposal making its way through the Vermont House of Representatives to expand Vermont’s bottle deposit law. The bill would double the cost of a standard bottle deposit from 5 cents to 10 cents, and it would apply the deposit to “water bottles, wine bottles and containers for all noncarbonated and carbonated drinks, except for milk, rice milk, soy milk, almond milk, hemp seed milk, and dairy products.” It would also create a 15 cent deposit requirement for liquor bottles.
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.