This commentary is by Paul Dame, chair of the Vermont GOP.
Most Americans are familiar with the phrase “Taxation without Representation,” but Vermont is about to embark on a bold experiment in “Taxation without Explanation.”
Bill H.715, also known as the clean heat standard, would intentionally make every kind of home heating fuel more expensive — but we just don’t know how to calculate the increase, or what the total amount will be. It’s one of those common Democrat tactics where they have to pass the bill before they can find out what it does.
Legislators are abdicating their duty to evaluate policy before implementing it with this bill because they have outsourced the policy-crafting to an unelected, unaccountable board of appointees who will implement a tax that nearly every Vermonter will have to pay to keep warm in the winter.
During a committee discussion in Senate Natural Resources & Energy, senators admitted that they didn’t really know how much of a tax increase there would be, but that the fuel dealer would, or at least could, pass it on to every one of their Vermont customers. As Sen. Chris Bray said “no one knows this for sure, because they haven’t worked out the system yet” (see video at 29:10).
Isn’t that what our legislators are supposed to be doing: working out the system?
The truth is they have the basic idea of what they want to accomplish. They want to punish you and make you pay more for your fuel. In a real gem at 30:08, Sen. MacDonald asks “By burning this fuel — you’re gonna pay extra,” to which Sen. Bray replied “That’s a yes.”
The problem is that they have to figure out a way to make Vermonters pay more without making it look like it was their idea.
So, just like they did with the Global Warming Solutions Act, Democrats have kicked the can down the road and passed the hard part of the job to someone they know can’t be fired by voters for not doing their job.
It’s bad enough that this new clean heat standard will result in every Vermonter paying more for heating oil, propane and natural gas — but what ought to be even more concerning is that the people making those decisions are not accountable to voters.
One of the fundamental tenants of a functioning democracy is that the people know what their government is doing, and have input on whether or not they should keep doing it through regular elections. The clean heat standard bill separates the connection between the people and their law makers, and instead creates a new triangle that serves to insulate law makers from making tough and unpopular laws.
Republicans believe Vermonters want clear and fair laws that anyone can understand to ensure that they have the kind of predictability, accountability and transparency that have been missing lately in the State House. Sticking with Democrats will likely cause an abundance in new and innovative ways to shift more and more taxing authority away from legislators who can dodge the blame, and increasingly onto bureaucrats who aren’t subject to the will of the people through elections.
Please take a moment to contact your senator today to let them know that this bill just has too many problems that haven’t been addressed yet in order to move forward with this mystery tax.