St. Johnsbury Caledonian Record Editorial 3/28/2013
Gov. Peter Shumlin came to the Northeast Kingdom Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast Monday and emphasized: “No New Taxes!” He asked those present to contact their legislators to oppose any attempts to further fleece Vermonters. He averred, as quoted by Jim Jardine, “we can use existing money and spend it smarter.”
This left us wondering. In what sort of fantasy Wonderland are we stuck?
There is absolutely no doubt that the Democratic Legislature will increase the residential educational property tax rate by five cents. There is no doubt that the Democratic Legislature will raise gasoline taxes to replenish the Transportation Fund. And there is absolutely no doubt that Gov. Peter “no new taxes” Shumlin will sign both of these measures into law.
As we observed in an editorial last Monday, “the Vermont House Ways & Means Committee [has] approved $27 million in new taxes. They voted to apply a six percent sales tax to soda, candy, expensive clothes, bottled water and anything sold in a vending machine. They increased, by 50 cents, the tax on a pack of cigarettes. They upped the meals tax, by .5, to 9.5 percent. For good measure they rolled up the top two income tax brackets into one — opting to charge everyone at the higher rate.”
Gov. Shumlin says he doesn’t much approve of some or all of those tax increases, but it was only a few weeks ago that he was making the case for a new tax on break-open tickets at our veterans posts and fraternal clubs. Before that, as a senator, Shumlin urged a host of new-tax ideas.
As John McClaughry chronicled them in a column here six weeks ago, the list includes “the two state education property taxes of Act 60 (1997). The tax on everybody’s power bill to finance Efficiency Vermont (1999). The “heating fuel savings charge” to finance a “thermal efficiency utility” (2007, vetoed). The gas guzzler tax on pickups, vans and SUVs (2008, not passed). The tax on milk distributors to pay for more dairy price fixing (2009, not passed). The “unanticipated profits tax” on Vermont Yankee (2007, not passed). The increased provider taxes on hospitals, nursing homes, and visiting nurse services (2011). The increased liquor and tobacco taxes (2011). And a new health insurance claims “assessment” (2011).”
After all that, he wants us to think “No New Taxes!” at the mention of his name. The trouble is, Vermont can’t support Shumlin-style Big Government on its existing revenue base. If he really means “no new taxes,” he had better learn how to downsize his grandiose spending ambitions to a level that our current tax base can afford.