Democrats offer different emphasis on the state of Vermont’s economy

by Robert Maynard

While members of the Shumlin Administration are expressing cautious optimism over the better than expected tax revenue for April and May, representatives of the progressive wing of the party are sounding the alarm over Vermont’s economic future.  Is this a signal that the rift between Governor Shumlin and the state’s progressive movement continues to grow? Here is an excerpt from this Vermont Digger article in which Jeb Spaulding expresses cautious optimism:

Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding expressed optimism about the state’s economy, but cautioned against reading too much into some higher than expected tax revenues from April and May. The General Fund is currently $31.88 million above its year-to-date forecast, although corporate tax refunds yet to be paid out could diminish any surplus from personal income tax receipts.

“I think we are seeing an earlier turnaround” than expected last year, Spaulding said. Personal income tax receipts were one-third above projections for May, and year-to-date earnings from corporate, inheritance and estate, and real estate transfer taxes are solidly higher now than they were last year at this time.

Progressives, on the other hand, focused more on the caution than the optimism :

Sen. Tim Ashe, D/P-Burlington, also downplayed the brightness he sees in a potential general fund surplus. “(U)nexpected revenues are a plus, but they don’t come close to resolving the longer term sustainability of the state budget,” he said by email. Ashe sits on the state’s Emergency Board, which adopted the Fiscal Year 2013 Consensus Revenue Forecast at their Jan. 23 meeting.

Ashe said the revenue news is good, but may not mean much. “Given the volatile state of the national economy this may be a one-time blip on the radar. In addition, this revenue uptick is small beans compared to a $1.3 billion general fund.”

The difference is more a matter of emphasis than actual substance, but there is enough of a difference to wonder whether the split within the Democratic Party is widening.