By Guy Page
The proposed “Enhanced Energy Savings Act” is a carbon tax, and maybe the Senate should “own it and come out swinging,” one senator told his fellow Natural Resources and Energy Committee members yesterday.
The EESA exists only in a draft authored by Chair Chris Bray (D-Addison). It would “set a goal of weatherizing 120,000 homes within 10 years” and “establish a thermal energy efficiency charge” to pay for it.
Homeowners would pay more to stay warm (2 cents/gallon for oil/propane/kerosene, less than 1% for natural gas and electricity) to pay for the weatherization of 120,000 more homes in the next decade.
In draft form, the word “tax” is crossed out and replaced with “thermal efficiency charge.” That bit of legislative literary legerdemain caught the attention of Windsor County Sen. Dick McCormack.
“Do we want to call this money that we’re going to be charging people an efficiency fee? I think it’s a tax,” McCormack – A Democrat and longtime liberal arts teacher – said. “And I think it’s a carbon pollution tax. And I think that I don’t want to be in the position of appearing to be hiding something and then arguing about the semantics after the fact.”
“It’s going to be seen as a carbon pollution tax and i think that’s accurate and we’re going to end up having to defend that policy anyway,” McCormack advised. “In which case maybe we should own it and come out swinging.”
Legislative lawyer Ellen Czajkowski said it’s not technically a ‘carbon tax’ – it’s more of a charge on a heating bill. “There isn’t specifically anything real in this language referring to carbon and the rates are not based on the amount of carbon, so I don’t think – at least at the moment – it is a carbon tax.”
McCormack was first appointed to the Senate in 1989. He’s had this discussion before. “Right, yeah, I buy your argument Ellen. I don’t think all of my constituents will buy the argument,” McCormack said with a chuckle. “For them it’s their money and the state is taking it, and we’re taking it for our purposes. But that’s my cross to bear. Your job is to make sense. My job is to sell it.”
The committee then discussed who would sponsor the bill and when and how it might be introduced. As of this writing, the “Vermont Enhanced Energy Savings Act” has not been scheduled for introduction.
Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.