Flemming: Is Vermont the most tax-burdened state, or just top 10?

By David Flemming

The Tax Foundation came out with a fascinating study comparing how the 50 states ranked in regards to tax burden. I would have guessed Vermont would come in the top 10, after all that is “what we have become.” We did even worse than making the top 10 however. We ranked highest in the country for “state tax collection per capita in 2017.” That’s right, on a per capita basis, we each paid $5,015 to our Vermont government in 2017, more than any other state!


Now some skeptics might say, “but doesn’t Vermont’s state government pick up the tab for public schooling more than most other states, which fund public schools through local taxes?” And yes, there may be some truth to that. While you would need to compare 2016 to 2017, Vermont falls all the way to 10th (how great!) most burdened if you factor in state and local taxes. We only paid $5,904 taxes per capita in 2016.

Places like New York collected fewer taxes per capita at the state level: $1001 less than Vermont in 2017. They also collected more than $3000 per capita in taxes in 2016 than Vermont did, considering state and local taxes. I’m sure that is in large part due to New York City’s local taxes. But Vermont doesn’t have its own vast economic behemoth- Burlington is less than a hundredth the size of New York City.

Vermont really can’t do much worse on its tax burden ranking — in terms of changes to our relative tax burdens, we have nowhere to go but up. In terms of absolute tax burden however: we could indeed end up spending even more to cover our pension liabilities and renovated education system. As Rob Roper mentioned last week, a taxpayer bill of rights could help restrain tax increase a good deal. We must also discipline ourselves to spend less on non-essential government services.

David Flemming is a policy analyst for the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Flickr/401kcalculator.org

8 thoughts on “Flemming: Is Vermont the most tax-burdened state, or just top 10?

  1. Not to worry folks, in a few years the tax rate in Vermont will be $0/capita simply because there will be no one left to tax. It’s not complecated.

  2. Using the numbers here, and adding in fees and sales taxes, ect., its costing me $600 a month just to be here paying for things I don’t get anything for. thats a mortgage on other states. Over my remaining life (projection) its a $200,000 I get nothing for. Add in the cost of living here, some of which is caused by the state, and the lower cost of living elsewhere, and its $300,000.

    • It’s not just the high taxes…it’s what Vermonters receive in return.

      According to the Proportionate Contribution Clause of VT’s Constitution (Chapter I, Article 9) “every member of society hath a right to be protected in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and therefore is bound to contribute the member’s proportion towards the expense of that protection”.

      Education is, by far, the largest expense paid by taxes. While 90% of VT’s students graduate, the number of students has declined by more than 20% over the last several decades. Of those students fewer than half meet grade level standards in reading, writing and arithmetic. Only 40% go on to college. 40% of those that do go to college require remedial instruction before taking college level courses and, for the most part, they drop out before graduating.

      For that, Vermonters, on average, pay as much to educate a 1st grader as it costs to send a student to one of VT’s State Colleges – including room and board.

      How’s that for quid pro quo?

      Curiously, the Proportionate Contribution Clause ends with the caveat that “previous to any law being made to raise a tax, the purpose for which it is to be raised ought to appear evident to the Legislature to be of more service to community than the money would be if not collected.” Clearly, the legislature is blind as a bat and in breach of contract.

      Unfortunately, there’s little anyone can do to remedy the scam. 39% of VT workers are employed in the government, health and education sectors. They’re well organized and represent a formidable (i.e. unbeatable) voting majority. It seems to me that the only recourse is to hunker down, let them go bankrupt and rise, phoenixlike, from the ashes of their misconduct.

    • Being a “Welcoming” state costs money.A bus full of Congolese arrived Saturday in Burlington.They have no money or anywhere to stay until they are place in apartments.Landlords want 1st month,last month,and 1 month security for these apartments,and that takes loot!

      • Mr. Redfern: can you substantiate the observation that Congolese immigrants arrived in Burlington, VT on or about August 3rd?

      • Who was organizing to import a busload of people from Congo, which is in sh.. ho.. country in Africa?
        No education, no skills, no housing, no job, likely do not speak English.
        What the hell is going on?
        Are some people running this state going nuts?
        Or are these private people (spending their own money?) acting on their own?

        • Willem: FYI, I have yet to find any reference to Congolese immigrants coming recently to Burlington. Your concerns are warranted – if the claim is true. But I’m beginning to suspect it isn’t.

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