This commentary is by Paul Dame, chair of the Vermont GOP.
One of the problems we have with a pervasive Democrat majority is that some bad ideas never go away, they just keep waiting for a better time. Within the past few days someone forwarded to me a new survey going around that was asking about a number of “new” tax proposals that I had campaigned against nearly 10 years ago.
Since Vermont, and every other state, has had a huge influx in federal money we have been able to defer concerns about sufficient income, but with the end of federal funds coming into focus after this year’s budget, it appears that liberal lawmakers are packing parachutes for their favorite programs by looking to attach them to a particular revenue stream.
The survey I saw included extensive questions related to what had once been dubbed the “Soda Tax” which later became the “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax,” Another old fiend was what we used to call the “Cloud Tax” which is a tax on technology companies, like Dealer.com or other software-as-a-service businesses that bring revenue from out of state to pay Vermont employees.
It should be no surprise that the Democrat supermajority wants to cram all of their most unpalatable bills into this year’s session, because they are hoping that voters aren’t paying attention to them as closely as they will be next year when the election comes around. While we don’t know yet exactly which bills will be taken up and given the stamp of approval from the power brokers in the Democrat Party, we do know that they will carry with them the same old, tired approach to solving every fiscal issue, which will basically be to treat Vermont taxpayers like an endless ATM.
Sometimes we will be sold a new tax as a way to “punish” bad behavior. The Soda Tax is usually used as an example of how Democrats are going to punish poor rural Vermonters for making life choices that they disagree with, and will try to protect the people form themselves. But not only do they use a tax to punish bad behavior, they also use taxes to punish good behavior – like providing a service to out-of-state companies to bring revenue into the Vermont economy – like with the cloud tax. For Democrats a tax can be a reward and a punishment.
Every Vermont consumer and every Vermont business must live in a state of constant awareness that at any time, for any reason, Vermont Democrats will at least consider applying any old idea that had died in a previous legislative session to solve a new or unique problem from today. Every zombie tax proposal becomes “undead” with the start of a new session.
In a few interviews, even Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman has been trying to float the balloon of reviving the single-payer health care plans that were declared DOA by the previous Democrat administration. The original plan was funded by a large payroll tax, because it’s the only thing big enough to generate the Millions of dollars in income needed for such a sizable takeover of an entire industry.
Thankfully since his term started Gov. Phil Scott has held the line on many of these proposed tax increases, putting the affordability of Vermonters ahead of the ideological aims of the majority. But as Democrat-aligned soft money lobbyists begin poll-testing a revival of some of these ideas, and Gov. Scott is facing his smallest coalition of affordability-conscious legislators yet, Vermonters could find themselves closer to a new broad-based tax than we’ve been since the turn of the century.