Governor throws cold water on bills with new fees and taxes
Phil Scott told lawmakers on Tuesday that he is dead serious about his pledge not to impose any new taxes or fees on Vermonters, targeting 15 bills that he said won’t get his approval until they are adjusted accordingly.
In a letter to legislative leaders, Scott listed laws currently moving through the Statehouse that he said would raise the cost of living or doing business in the state, and challenged legislators to make necessary changes to get rid of the expenses if they wanted him on board.
“My request is simple: let’s work together to find ways for many of the proposals to advance, while respecting the need to provide Vermonters with another year of relief that begins to moderate the burden of taxes and fees,” he wrote.
The letter goes on to list some “examples of bills containing new or higher taxes, fees and expenses I cannot support.”
Some of his objections relate to the broad impact the bill would have on the state’s economy — such as a minimum wage law that the governor says will increase the cost of production — while others are focused on specific fees or taxes that would be created by the bills.
The laws range from acts proposing a carbon tax, the simplification of government for small businesses and holding companies liable for toxic pollution (A full list of the bills cited in the governor’s memo, and the expenses he wants to see eliminated, is below).
In a couple instances, the governor strongly indicates that the bills fundamentally contradict his spending-averse and pro-business policies.
He writes that a toxic pollution bill, “Increases the cost of liability insurance on manufacturers to the point of making the cost and availability a potentially insurmountable barrier to doing business in Vermont.”
Describing his opposition to a bill that would look into approaches to greenhouse gas reduction, he writes that it “Allocates scarce state resources to study a carbon tax — a policy Vermonters cannot afford, and I will not support on the state level under any circumstance.”
But Scott says that he hopes to find common ground on “many” of the bills.
“Again, aside from these new or higher taxes and fees, many of these bills contain provisions I could support,” the letter says.
Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington, said he was unsurprised by the letter, and hoped that legislators would push back.
“Sometimes if you want pro-growth policies you have to be willing to make investments in order to do the right thing,” he said. “I think that a smart approach would be to evaluate each one on its merits instead of making a blanket restriction on any revenues that need to be raised.”
Pollina said the letter would likely have an impact on legislative decisions over the coming weeks, though he hoped that lawmakers would prioritize making the best policy for Vermonters rather than pleasing the governor.
“I think that unfortunately lot of people in the Legislature are afraid to stand up to the governor on these kind of things,” he said. “So I think it may have an impact, yes, but I would hope not.”
Bill #: Description
• Reason for Scott’s opposition
H.560: An act relating to household products containing hazardous substances
• Requires the executive branch to determine a fee for a stewardship program
H.582: An act relating to increased funding for the Connectivity Initiative
• Increases the Universal Service fee on transportation network companies
H.725: An act relating to the regulation of transportation network companies
• Imposes a new annual fee on transportation network companies
H.763: An act relating to a study of approaches to greenhouse gas reduction
• Allocates scarce state resources to study a carbon tax — a policy Vermonters cannot afford, and I will not support on the state level under any circumstance
H.764: An act relating to data brokers and consumer protection
• Established an annual registration fee
H.791: An act relating to a carbon charge that is refunded on electric bills
• Proposed to create a tax on carbon
H.911: An act relating to changes in Vermont’s personal income tax and education financing system
• Imposes an income tax surcharge on all Vermonters, making the state’s top marginal income tax rate the third highest in the country. Creates a new tax on a category of renters. Create a new tax on a category of investors in Vermont companies. Punishes a segment of the income tax payers for changes made by the federal government.
H.922: An act relating to making numerous revenue changes
• Asses a new tax on electronic cigarettes; creates a new fee that can be assessed by the Green Mountain Care Board
S.40: An act relating to increasing the minimum wage
• Increases business costs and factors of production that will increase price of good and services
S.85: An act relating to simplifying government for small businesses
• Imposes a surcharge on all business when they file required annual reports under Title 11A-11C
S.197: An act relating to liability for toxic substance exposures or releases
• Increases the cost of liability insurance on manufacturers to the point of making he cost and availability a potentially insurmountable barrier to doing business in Vermont
S.204: An act relating to the registration of short-term rentals
• Imposes a new fee on short-term rentals
S.260: An act relating to funding the cleanup of State waters
• Requires the design of a fee (also violates the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches)
Alan Keays contributed reporting