This week saw a flurry of Carbon Tax Bills – four of them – hit the legislature in anticipation of potential passage during either a special legislative session this fall or in 2018. The shotgun approach to Carbon Tax policy seems to be a “throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks” strategy. If we cut property taxes will you support a Carbon Tax? No? How ‘bout if we cut the income tax? Still no? Sales tax? Please? Pretty please? No.
But here’s a big reason Vermonters should be very worried about these or any other Carbon Tax proposals: Asked why now is the time to move forward with a Carbon Tax, lead sponsor Rep. Johanna Donovan (D-Burlington and mother of Attorney General T.J. Donovan) said, among other things, “Because we are aware now that we’re going to have a special session in the fall. These will be revenue bills, and if indeed some of the draconian cuts we hear may be coming our way, these are things we could use to raise revenue.” [Emphasis added] (WPTZ, 4/9/17)
RAISE REVENUE! A.k.a. “collect more money” or “increase taxes.”
Later Donovan said that the proposed Carbon Taxes would be revenue neutral, “a wash”, meaning that other taxes would be cut to offset entirely any tax increase on carbon. But you can’t close a revenue gap created by “draconian cuts” with a revenue neutral policy because, well, math! You can only backfill draconian cuts with draconian tax increases. So is that what we’re really talking about here or not?
Either Donovan is misleading Vermonters about the true intent behind these new Carbon Tax proposals and they are really designed to raise a bunch of cash for Montpelier to spend, or she doesn’t understand what it is she and her colleagues are proposing. Neither alternative is comforting.
The question Vermonters have to ask is if politicians faced with a choice of giving money back to taxpayers or spending it on their cherished programs will ever, in the end, opt for the former over the latter. Rep. Donovan’s Freudian slip here has given us some insight into the answer.
– Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.