This commentary is by Paul Dame, chair of the Vermont GOP.
One of the difficult questions I get asked when talking to potential candidates is whether they can even make a difference while Montpelier is so imbalanced. But despite the super-majority Democrats have, Republicans have been able to make some modest gains on certain issues that advance our cause despite our minority status, and we’re not letting up.
Last session, Vermont Republicans were able to work together with Gov. Phil Scott to advance a partial repeal of the Military Pension Tax. Vermont was one of only three states in the country that taxed every dime of military pensions. This has been an unnecessary barrier to workforce shortages because it has been a disincentive for many retired military personnel from coming to Vermont, where they would be able to keep more of what they earn. An 18-year-old can retire from active duty with a pension at the age of 38 and then go on to serve another 20-25 years in the workforce. Vermont has actively been pushing away people with valuable skills and knowledge during their prime earning years.
But last session, Vermont Republicans were able to stand up to the super-majority and build coalitions that allowed them to repeal the tax on at least the first $10,000 of military pension income. And some Vermonters are already beginning to feel that relief in their work. But we’re not done yet.
Until we get a majority, we have to continue to play the long game, take our wins where we can earn them, but then also come back to continue to advance the policies that we know can make life better for many Vermonters.
That’s why this past Friday, Republican Rep. Lisa Hango reintroduced her bill with over 50 tri-partisan cosponsors to finish the work that was started last session. The new bill, H.255, would not only exempt the first $10,000 of pension income, but it would also help us move the ball forward by leaving the entire pension tax-free under state law.
It’s about time that Republicans also take the slow, steady, and persistent approach that Democrats have been using for years. Every session, Democrats come back with yet another proposal to add a new tax on services — even though they have failed to enact it every session for the last 10 years. Now it’s our turn for Republicans to come back again this year with a new effort to repeal a little more tax on Vermonters.
I would love an 85-seat majority that could do this and provide even greater tax relief, but given the numbers we have today, we have to do the best we can with the hand that we’ve been dealt. We made some important gains last year despite strong headwinds, but there is still more work to do in order to bring relief to the people of Vermont. And while we make those modest gains, we have to begin working together now, recruiting the candidates who can help us deliver for the people of Vermont the kind of financial relief they need, and providing the basic services like infrastructure necessary to accomplish the work of our state.