By Rob Roper
During a debate on VPR between the four Democratic candidates who will appear on that party’s Aug. 14th primary ballot, all stated support for placing a new carbon tax on Vermonters.
James Ehlers, a clean water activist who runs Lake Champlain International, stated, “I do think a carbon tax is the right path to follow.”
Christine Hallquist, former CEO of Vermont Electric Co-op, hedged a little, saying that a carbon tax is “one of the most effective policy mechanisms you can have for mitigating carbon,” but refused to give a direct yes or no answer regarding support. She has also said that reducing Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change would be her top priority if elected. It’s hard to imagine someone forgoing what she sees as the “most effective tool” when tackling her “number one” issue.
Brenda Siegel, a performance artist who runs the Southern Vermont Dance Festival, said, “Carbon pricing is essential as part of our way that we reduce carbon emissions in our state,”
Ethan Sonneborn, a 14-year-old, said, “I would be open to exploring [a carbon tax] as governor. I’m absolutely not ruling it out.”
State Sen. John Rodgers (D-Essex/Orleans), who will not appear on the ballot but is running a write-in campaign for governor, did not participate in the debate.
The carbon tax under consideration by proponents in Vermont is known as “the ESSEX Plan.” It would ultimately tax gasoline an extra 32 cents per gallon, heating oil and diesel an extra 40 cents per gallon, and propane and natural gas an extra 24 cents. The revenues collected, after allowing for government expenses collecting and administering this complicated plan, would be redistributed via a series of rebates to low income and rural Vermonters, and subsidies to electric providers, which they would in turn use to lower customers’ electric rates.
Gov. Phil Scott has promised to veto any carbon tax that reaches his desk, which would require at least 51 votes in the state House to sustain. Vermont Republicans currently hold 53 seats in the House, though 12 incumbent Republican representatives are not running for re-election.