By Rob Roper
The Vermont House last week voted 81-60 to double the tax on heating fuels from 2 cents to 4 cents per gallon, and to impose a gross receipts tax of 1.0 percent on the retail sale of natural gas and 1.5 percent on the retail sale of coal. The money raised (an estimated $4.5 million) would be used to increase funding for Vermont’s low income weatherization program.
This action been described by opponents as a “back door carbon tax” on fossil fuels.
Supporters of the fuel tax increase are arguing it’s technically not a carbon tax because it’s a tax on volume of fuel (gallons) not carbon output (tons released), and that this is increasing an existing tax, not creating a new one.
But more disturbing than this semantic jujitsu used to justify (in some cases) a broken campaign promise to not support a carbon tax is the twisted logic that it’s OK to double the tax because fuel prices fluctuate and, therefore, consumers won’t notice.
The scheming goes, because the market price for home heating fuels fluctuates, sometimes considerably, the state should use this opportunity to take more money out of constituents’ pockets. If your bill spikes by 50 cents or a buck a gallon, you won’t notice us skimming off another 2 cents, right?
Yes, this is what they’re saying. And with a straight face. It’s like arguing when your neighbor gets socked with a big medical bill it’s a good time to pick their pocket. From a position of sheer deviousness, I guess they’re probably right. But morally?
This justification was offered in committee and on the floor of the house by Rep. George Till, D-Jericho. It can also be seen here in this video by Rep. Mike McCarthy, D-St. Albans, at around the 1:00 minute mark. Apparently McCarthy’s constituents aren’t buying it.