By Guy Page
Despite some comments and headlines following last Thursday’s first meeting of the Governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission, legalization is anything but “inevitable.” Gov. Phil Scott has consistently stated that serious, outstanding questions must be answered before he will sign a legalization bill into law. To clarify, Commission co-chair Tom Little told WCAX:
“We’ve been asked to identify those provisions, laws, regulations, educational and prevention programs and the safety measures that at a minimum we would want in place. Ready to go! Not on the drawing board! Ready to go before Vermont made a further advance toward legalization.”
The commission will deliver its final report and recommendations in December, 2018: 14 months, one legislative session, one primary election, and one general election away. A lot can happen between now and then, especially given the experimental nature of the Colorado law, the U.S. Attorney General’s firm opposition to legalization, and the informed, outspoken opposition to legalization by commission members Dr. Jill Rinehart and Colchester Police Chief Jennifer Morrison, among others.
As always, our elected and appointed state officials want and need to hear from Vermonters. You may quickly, easily register your opinions, concerns and questions with Gov. Scott by clicking here.
Vermont only state with more poverty last year
In 2016, the rate of people in poverty rose in Vermont from 10.2 percent to 11.9 percent, the only state to show an increase, according to a Sept. 15 Vermont Business Magazine story about a U.S. Census report. The poverty rate declined in 24 states. Vermont’s poverty rate is still 14th lowest in the nation. The national average is 14 percent.
Vermont has third highest tax burden
The Ethan Allen Institute reports Vermont’s tax burden of 10.75 percent of personal income (calculated by combining several major taxes) is third highest in the nation, behind only Hawaii and Maine (EAI Fall 2017 newsletter).
Vermont second worst at keeping college grads
EAI also reports website Zippia says almost 70 percent of Vermont college grads left the state to enter the job market. Only Delaware was worse.
Good News No. 1: nationwide, minority incomes growing most quickly
[Editor’s note: from time to time SHH will highlight Good News – positive developments that are contrary to a dominant, negative narrative.] America’s wealthiest gained the most between 2013 and 2016, but household wealth for African-Americans, Hispanics, and those without high school diplomas grew fastest — and started from a much lower point. All groups saw growth in the period, a sign that the recovery after the financial crisis is continuing (Federal Reserve report, published in recent Linked In “Daily Rundown”).
Good News No. 2: U.S. energy cheaper, cleaner than ever
U.S. energy production is getting cleaner AND cheaper. Consider these four facts from Bloomberg’s Sustainable Energy Factbook:
1. In 2016, U.S. power sector carbon emissions fell to their lowest annual level since at least 1990.
2. Average national retail electricity prices have dropped 3.9 percent in real terms since 2011.
3. Consumers devoted less than 4 percent of total annual household spending to energy in 2016, the smallest share ever recorded.
4. Between 2007-2016, U.S. energy use declined 3.6 percent while GDP increased 12 percent.
Gov. Scott proclaims Sept. 25-29 National Clean Energy Week
Gov. Scott joined several other U.S. governors, including three other New England governors, in supporting the first ever National Clean Energy Week (NCEW) with a proclamation calling for both clean energy solutions and a strong Vermont economy. NCEW was created by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES), a Washington, DC – based organization supporting clean energy from diversified sources leading to state and national economic strength.
42, count ‘em 42, lobbyists work for carbon tax groups
Thanks again to the Ethan Allen Institute for this startling fact: 42 registered lobbyists work for the three leading organizations in the pro-carbon tax coalition group called Energy Independent Vermont. What does that mean, in real terms? It means legislators in January will be pressured to pass one or more of several Vermont carbon tax bills introduced in this year’s session. It begs the question: if Vermont voters want a carbon tax, why do these groups need so many lobbyists?
NorthStar plan would prevent 3,000 truckloads of rubble
NorthStar’s plan to recycle clean Vermont Yankee rubble would prevent between 3,000 and 5,000 roundtrips of concrete-laden trucks on Vernon and Brattleboro roads over 12 months, NorthStar CEO Scott State said September 28 at two Brattleboro events.
Speaking at a Vermont Energy Partnership luncheon, and that evening to the Nuclear Decommissioning Advisory Panel, State said the company would recycle and reuse onsite clean and decontaminated rubble as “fill,” and ship contaminated rubble by train out-of-state. Some NorthStar plan critics want all rubble (clean or not) taken away.
But federal regulations require that all removed rubble be replaced by an equal volume of clean fill. The Vernon railyard cannot efficiently unload railroad cars. That leaves trucks as the sole alternative. The 3-5,000 roundtrips would pose an unnecessary traffic danger to local drivers, including families commuting to and from nearby Vernon Elementary School, State said. The cost of both plans would likely be about the same, State said.
IRS standard deduction hike could cut VT tax revenue by $80 million
The GOP plan to double the federal standard tax deduction would cut $80 million from Vermont state income tax revenue, Tax Commissioner Kaj Samson reportedly told Vermont Digger. But the Legislature could make up the lost revenue raising income tax rates, economist Art Woolf said. Also, Scott administration budget director Adam Greshin has asked all state agencies and departments to prepare level-funded 2018-19 budgets.
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, Divestment Facts, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and the Church at Prison.