As Town Meeting Day approaches, the Burlington GOP has released a statement making clear to voters that ballot initiatives that push green energy in homes will raise the cost of heating, and new eviction bans will mean fewer rentals while wealthy homebuyers benefit.
First, they said the timing couldn’t be much worse for any new costs on heating.
“In a time of unprecedented economic hardship for thousands of Burlingtonians, city leadership seeks the power to further financially cripple Burlington families by forcing them to pay to convert their heating systems from energy efficient natural gas, propane & oil heat to costly, inefficient electric heat systems or be penalized with a carbon tax & ‘alternative compliance payments,'” the release states.
The Burlington GOP is against ballot questions 3, 4, and 5. Number 3 is known as the Thermal Energy Systems Charter Change, would allow the city to gather “carbon impact” fees from building and homeowners that use carbon-based fuels. If this passes, voters must decide the amount of those fees at a later date.
“The City of Burlington is attempting to require all residential & commercial buildings to convert
their properties to electric heat or face a carbon tax or ‘alternative compliance payments,'” the statement by the Burlington GOP reads. “The BTV GOP firmly believes that this proposal will negatively impact the 90% of Burlington residents financially who rely on oil & gas for heating, hot water & cooking.”
The purpose is to shift heating use to electric options such as cold-climate electric heat pumps. The technology is still new compared to conventional gas and oil systems, and has performance issues, especially in bitterly cold temperatures. In particular, electric heating systems are not efficient on Vermont’s cold winter nights; also, compared to oil heat, electric resistance heat is 143% more expensive.
Green technologies usually require taxpayer subsidies. On the Efficiency Vermont website, on its rebates page, cashback offers include $6,500 for air-to-water heat pumps.
The Burlington GOP statement says members will listen to alternative heating solutions “when practical alternatives to fossil fuel heating is a viable option for Vermonters.” The group is asking all Burlingtonians to vote no on Question 3.
On the issue of ranked-choice voting, Question 4, Burlington Republicans also want voters to vote no.
Ranked-choice voting is a new election trend that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. If a voter’s first-choice candidate does not get enough percentage of votes then the next preferred candidate gets counted while and the one with the fewest first-choice votes does not continue. This goes on until someone has at least 50% voter support.
According to the local GOP, it’s a convoluted voting system: “The truth is RCV presents serious obstacles to voters both understanding the ballot & actually ranking their votes.”
UVM research for the Vermont Legislative Research Shop concluded that ranked-choice voting challenges the same social groups that progressives wish to protect. One study says that it causes, “unequal amounts of knowledge, understanding and use among education, ethnic and language groupings.”
The BTV GOP is asking Burlingtonians to vote no on Question 4.
Just cause evictions
Another ballot item the city’s GOP opposes is Question 5, which relates to property owners. This initiative would take away a property owner’s right to not renew a tenant’s lease after a contract reaches its end-date.
BTV GOP claims the anticipated impact of an eviction ban could ultimately result in the loss of rental units in the city, which “directly impacts a renter’s ability to find housing.” Renters currently make up 40% of the occupants for the city. The GOP describes the current Burlington housing market as “offering little to nothing in the entry-level market.”
Among other things, the GOP claims the city could lose up to 2,300 rental units and “have negative impacts of the very residents it purports to protect.”
The Vermont Association of Realtors opposes Question 5.