In Search of a 12 Step Program for Spendaholic Politicians

I just finished posting a commentary about the suspected plans of some of our political class to raise yet more taxes to feed their insatiable spending adiction and, as if on cue, there appears an article in Vermont Digger about just such a plan:

Sen. Tim Ashe and Rep. Janet Ancel, two lawmakers with strong influence over state taxes, are taking differing stances this year on how to approach the state’s more than $1.3 billion worth of tax exemptions.

Ashe, a Burlington Democrat/Progressive and newly named chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said he’d like to review tax exemptions as a potential way to raise revenue. Ancel says eliminating tax breaks would be difficult and not necessarily beneficial.

A 2011 quote from then GOP Chair Pat McDonald, in the aforementioned commentary, points ou that this approach has already been tried recently:

Just two short years ago, in a rush to raise taxes, the Democratic majority in the Legislature overrode Gov. James Douglas’ veto of the budget in 2009, the combined budget and tax bill for fiscal year 2010, by just one vote. The governor and Statehouse Republicans opposed this bill because it spent too much and raised taxes unnecessarily.

Those Democratic tax increases from 2009 are still being phased in. On Jan. 1, 2011, Vermonters aged 70 and over lost their exemption on capital gains income — not very helpful in the middle of retirement. Vermonters under age 70 lost their capital gains exemption 18 months prior, also as a result of the Democrats’ budget.

But those tax increases were apparently not enough. During this legislative session, more taxes were enacted, targeting health care providers, health care insurance claims and (once again) property owners with yet another increase to the broad-based property tax.

So, what’s the result of all these tax increases? Well, the headline in The Times Argus on July 22 read, “State to End Year with $40M Surplus.” Interestingly, in all the news reports and the public statements of Vermont’s Democratic leaders, not once was there a mention of how this surplus came to be. Democratic leaders like to take credit for this surplus, claiming it’s resulted from growth in Vermont’s economy and “one-time” revenue anomalies. But in fact, this surplus is the result of tax increases that apparently were not needed after all.(As a side note, it’s tough to claim the economy has recovered enough to create such a large surplus, when household costs continue to increase faster than incomes, the unemployment rate has increased and many working Vermonters are underemployed.)

Apparently that was not enough to satisfy the spending addiction that some in Montpelier are afflicted with.  Is there a 12 step program for spendaholic politicians?