Roper: Progressive policies are hurting middle class, rural Vermonters

By Rob Roper

We are halfway through the 2019 legislative session, and a theme is emerging. While the majority of legislators would probably insist they are looking out for our most vulnerable friends and neighbors, the flood of proposed new taxes, regulations and curbs on traditional culture have something in common: they are almost universally hostile to low- and middle-income, rural, working Vermonters.

Rob Roper

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Just this week three new carbon tax proposals hit the House, all of which would make life more expensive and difficult for those who drive older cars, need larger vehicles for weather and terrain, drive further to work, and live in (and have to heat) older housing stock. An overwhelming majority of Vermonters oppose a carbon tax, yet the new legislature’s crop of Green New Dealers seems more determined than ever to pass one, if not this year then next.

The school district consolidation law, Act 46, is disproportionately punitive to rural school districts. This law, which works fine for larger, more populous regions of the state, is forcing poorly matched rural school districts to combine, disbanding their local school boards, in many cases against the democratically determined will of their electorates. Some rural communities have already lost their local schools as a result, and more expect to. Even though legislators say this wasn’t the intent of the law, they have done nothing to enforce their original intent or to fix the law.

Affordable housing is a huge issue facing our state, but the Act 250 “reforms” taken up this year will actually make housing more expensive and harder to build, not cheaper and easier. For example, a proposed requirement that all new construction be “carbon neutral,” either through adopting costly building practices and materials or by purchasing carbon offsets, will add to the already high regulatory cost of creating new homes. These costs will be passed along to the buyer/renter, raising the cost of housing.

Additionally, the legislature’s intent to herd development only into down town centers – the most expensive real estate – and to restrict it or ban it in rural areas where real estate is cheaper will also drive up housing costs and decrease incentives to build, keeping housing supplies low and prices high. The only people who will be able to afford shelter here are the very wealthy, or those poor enough and lucky enough to qualify for subsidized housing. Subsidized, of course, by middle class taxpayers, who increasingly can’t afford their own rents, mortgages and property taxes.

Following last year’s raising of the legal age to purchase a hunting rifle and ban on “high capacity” magazines, this year we are seeing more second amendment restrictions surface, including waiting periods for sales (48 hours or 72 hours) and a “safe storage” requirement. These further erode and show a lack of respect for Vermont’s rural hunting and sport shooting traditions.

Even the proposals that are ostensibly designed to help working people, such as the $15 minimum wage and Paid Family Leave will do more to hurt than to help.

A $15 minimum wage hike won’t matter as much in Chittenden County, where the market-level prevailing wage is already pushing hourly earnings to that level. However, in the rural communities, especially those along the Connecticut River that compete with New Hampshire and its $7.25 minimum wage, a $15 minimum wage in Vermont would be devastating to small marginal businesses. Many low wage Vermonters will lose their jobs entirely as a result of this mandate, others will lose hours. Those that do see a rise in income will disqualify for benefits, wiping out any financial gain. Every Vermonter will suffer the inflationary effects of higher labor costs being passed along to the consumer, especially those living on a fixed income.

The Paid Family Leave initiative would create a $100 million plus entitlement program that relies on a new payroll tax – essentially a 20 percent income tax increase for every already overtaxed Vermonter who earns a paycheck – for a benefit most Vermonters will never qualify to access. This encapsulates everything that is wrong with our statehouse mindset today: a massive tax Vermonters can’t afford to pay for a new entitlement the state can’t efficiently manage, and it has to be mandatory because otherwise nobody would participate of their own free will!

Take a careful look at this agenda. It’s not an agenda for the people a small, rural state struggling with high taxes, a high cost of living, a rugged climate, and not enough opportunities for upwardly mobile careers. Quite the opposite. It’s more like checking boxes on a list of ideological bumper sticker slogans from California.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. He lives in Stowe.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Famartin

29 thoughts on “Roper: Progressive policies are hurting middle class, rural Vermonters

  1. On this thread are men and women that could foster a better Republic for Vermont. Many great thoughts…..

  2. If anyone is interested, there is a speech that was presented to the Canadian Parliament by Kieffer Sutherland’s grandfather entitled “Mouseland” you can google this if you like. It’s only about five minutes long and it makes a lot of sense.
    I could go on and on about my beliefs and opinions, but painting either party with a broad brush only widens the divide in politics. The bottom line is, we used to be able to sit down to a bargaining table and weed out the things that made no common sense. That kind of governance seems to be unattainable now, as we are more concerned about which of the TWO major parties holds the power. We could think back to the days when we brought our deer rifles to school in our vehicles without the fear of someone killing somebody, and the days when we allowed our kids to actually WALK to school without the fear that they would be abducted, and try to decide where things went wrong. I would submit that we need to look more closely at the breakdown of the family unit, versus what party is in power. One person could have provided for the financial well-being of the family while the other could be a homemaker and watchful eye on our children. That is seldom the case anymore. it takes two incomes [in most cases] to provide for a reasonable livelihood. Until we elect representatives that are more of the “Common Sense Party” than the polarized system that exists now, I fear we will be looking for change in “Mouseland” in the same manner the mice did. just my two cents…Thanks.

    • It’s a great little speech, thanks for turning us onto that. I looked up the back ground and politics, there would be some changes I’d make.

      At the end, it wasn’t a mouse that stood up. It was a rat, it looked like a mouse, did mouse like things, but it wasn’t a mouse. We desperately need common sense to come together, people willing to post a comment or at the very least post a thumbs up for those putting their necks out on Vermont Digger.

      Mice need to be free. Could not agree with you more in the two parties, (not all members, but many) are not working in the interest of the people.

    • This is the story of a place called Mouseland. Mouseland was a place where all the little mice lived and played, were born and died. And they lived much the same as you and I do.

      They even had a parliament and every four years they had an election…used to walk to the polls and cast their ballots. Some of them even got a ride to the polls and got a ride for the next four years afterwards, too. Just like you and me. And every time on election day all the little mice used to go to the ballot box and they used to elect a government. A government made up of big, fat, black cats.

      Now if you think it strange that mice should elect a government of cats, look at the history of Canada for the last 90 years and maybe you’ll see they weren’t any “stupider” than us.

      Now, I’m not saying anything against the cats. They conducted their government with dignity. They passed good laws – that is, laws that were good for cats. But the laws that were good for cats weren’t very good for mice. One of the laws said that mouse holes had to be big enough so a cat could get his paw in. Another law said that mice could only run at certain speeds – so a cat could get his breakfast without too much effort.

      Historical Background: Considered the father of our universal health care system in Canada, Tommy Douglas was voted the Greatest Canadian ever in CBC’s competition a number of years ago. In this speech, he tries to argue that his party—the CCF—is a better option than the Liberals or Conservatives.
      All the laws were good laws—For cats. But, oh, they were hard on mice. And life was getting harder and harder. And when the mice couldn’t put up with it any more, they decided that something had to be done. So they went en masse to the polls. They voted the black cats out. They put in white cats.

      Now the white cats had put up a terrific campaign. They said, “All Mouseland needs is more vision.” They said, “The trouble with Mouseland is the round mouse holes. If you put us in we’ll make square mouse holes.” And they did. And the square mouse holes were twice as big as the round ones, and now a cat could get both paws in. And life was tougher than ever.

      And when they couldn’t take that anymore, they voted the white cats out and black ones in again. Then they went back to white cats. Then to black cats. They even tried half black and half white cats. And they called that a coalition. They even got one government made up of cats with spots on them: They were cats that tried to make a noise like a mouse but ate like a cat.

      You see, my friends, the trouble wasn’t with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice.

      Presently, there came along one little mouse who had an idea. My friends, watch out for the little fellow with an idea. And he said to the other mice, “Look fellows, why do we keep electing a government made up of cats? Why don’t we elect a government made up of mice?”

      “Oh,” they said, “he’s a Bolshevik. Lock him up!” So they put him in jail.

      But I want to remind you that you can lock up a mouse or a man but you can’t lock up an idea.

      – Tommy Douglas, 1944

      posters note……..he does seem like a Bolshevik, a communist, Marxist…when you look on Wikipedia you’ll find he hung and “organized” with Marxists….

    • Tried to send out the youtube link, but was blocked by my local server. Talk about censorship.
      Good video, 6:37 long. Doesn’t matter the color of fat cats, it’s still gov, ideas can’t be locked up is the basics of the vid. Thanks for mentioning it.

  3. The policy’s of the progressives/leftist lieberal are really Regressive. Like Rob said they want to herd you into controllable containment area’s where their nannyism can be easily enforced. They don’t want any free thinkers living off by themselves. Satan forbid any Vermonter be a Independent thinking being.

    Ever since Howard the coward dean signed the gay bill the leftarded legislature has been all about “setting the standard” or as they call it Leading the way (to failure) to the stupidity of leftist agenda.. it’s ALL
    About the AGENDA…

    • What if we really don’t know the last chapter of the Progressives manifesto? What if what we get to rail about are the few bones they toss us? What if the real agenda of the international progressive party is complete control of all aspects of our culture? What if VT’s reputation as a progressive leader has won it the right to re-start its eugenics research? What’s the real reason behind the rush to infanticide? Is it just to reduce the surplus population? Or to maybe re-engineer the mind in accordance with their perceptions of the needs of the future? What are those researchers doing in the catacombs of UVM’s research center? Too many questions associated with the end results of virtually every policy push.

      • And, maybe it would be just easier and more palitable now, to make the exit as many have done before us.
        It is a crying shame that native Vermonters, working here all our lives hoping to retire and enjoy the things we worked to sustain during those years, cannot stay here because the moron flatlanders moved in and showed us what CT, NJ, NY, and other states are like. I could care less about those states, JUST LEAVE US ALONE !!!!!!!!

    • “About the AGENDA…”
      Yes, it is about the agenda, UN Agenda 21/2030, about control of…EVERYTHING:

      This needs to be made clear, shouted loudly.

      The fight is HERE.

      I’ve posted this before but it bears repetition. It explains all.

  4. When are concerned people ever going to learn that the current progressive/liberal legislature doesn’t care what you think or say? 23 out of the current 30 Vermont senators were not born or raised in Vermont. They have no connection to our traditions, freedoms and customs. They came here and are driven by ego and ideology that they brought from another place. They don’t love Vermont like we do, they don’t think like we do and they don’t understand how anyone could be opposed to what they are doing. Until the media stops censoring conservatives, tells covers both sides of the issues and stops acting like a wing of the progressive party nothing is going to change. If we can’t get the message to the uninformed voter we can’t win elections. People complain then vote for the same people. The conservative movement needs large amounts of money to counter the liberal media. For Christ sake, Bernie just hired an illegal to run his campaign. Does anyone really think that Bernie gives a $hit about suffering Vermonters now that he has 3 homes and an $80,000.00 car. The ignorance is overwhelming. I know this is harsh but come on we need to fight fire with fire and stop whining. Is there any question that Vermont needs a major government adjustment?

  5. The Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan, CEP, goal aims to “transform” the Vermont economy. It would require investments of about $33.3 billion, about $1 billion per year for 33 years, during the 2017 – 2050 period, per Vermont Energy Action Network 2015 Annual Report. The CEP could not be implemented without a very high carbon tax and other taxes, surcharges and fees of at least $970 million per year for 33 years.

    Carbon Tax Impact On A Typical Vermont Family, as reported on VTDigger:

    Any tax, including a carbon tax, passing through the hands of government suffers from “the sticky fingers syndrome”, 2 dollars go in about 1.5 dollars come out. The difference stays to feed the growing government bureaucracy.

    The key word missing in most discussions is UNILATERAL. VT’s government imposing on Vermonters a unilateral carbon tax is like shooting them in the feet.

    If the carbon tax were nationwide, I would support it.

    The carbon tax would:

    – Impose a $10/ton tax of carbon emitted in 2017, increasing to $100/ton in 2027.
    – Generate about $100 million in state revenue in 2019, about $520 million in 2027.
    – Be added to the fuel prices at gas stations and fuel oil/propane dealers.
    – Drivers should expect a tax increase of 9 c/gal of gasoline in 2018, increasing to about 89 cents in 2027.
    – Homeowners, schools, hospitals, businesses, etc., should expect a tax increase of 58 c/gal of propane and $1.02/gal of heating oil and diesel fuel in 2027.
    – A typical household (two wage earners, two cars, in a free-standing house) would pay additional taxes in 2027 of about:
    – Some of the carbon tax extortion would be at the pump, some when the monthly fuel bills arrive, and some as higher prices of OTHER goods and services.

    Driving = $0.89/gal x 2 x 12000 miles/y x 1/(30 miles/gal) = $712/y
    Heating = $1.02/gal x 800 gal/y = $816/y
    Total carbon tax in 2027 = $1528/y
    Sales tax reduction 5/6 x 1400 = $233/y
    Net tax increase = $1295/y

    – The hypocritical sop of reducing the sales tax from 6 to 5 percent would save that household about $233 in sales taxes, for a net loss of $1295 in 2027. That means such households, the backbone of the Vermont economy, would have about $1300/y less to make ends meet.
    – Many of these households have had stagnant or declining, spendable real incomes (after taxes, fees, surcharges; other recurring expenses, etc.), plus dealing with a near-zero, real-growth Vermont economy, since 2000.
    – With less real income, and higher real prices for goods and services, they also would have to make their own energy efficiency improvements.

    • Willem, your numbers do not add up and are therefore misleading. Saying that a reduction in sales tax would result in less for the average Vermonter is foolishness. Vermonters are far overtaxed already. Adding another new tax simply adds to the already massive burden, and further limits Vermonters from growing on their own. We need to make VERMONT great again through redistribution of wealth and control. We can do this simply by getting Montpelier out of our local control and out of our wallets. Vote against the incumbent Democrats in office if you want to make s difference! Only you can prevent this mismanagement from continuing!

  6. Excellent article! The one question that keeps being asked is how does this continue to happen. Well first off Vermont’s form of government is outdated and no longer represents the “average Vermonter”.

    Having a governance made up of part-time representatives who went to Montpelier from January to March worked well back when Vermont had more cows than people. Farmers, loggers and others who made their living outdoors had the time to carry out such duties. All you needed was someone back home to feed the animals and keep the stove going.

    Today the average Vermonter can not get three or four months off to go to Montpelier. No employer is going to let anyone take that much time off. Most business owners are too busy trying to keep their business afloat working much more than 40 hours.

    You’ll notice that our lawmakers are creating more and more summer study groups. This may be necessary in some cases but to be clear they get paid for doing this. There is an incentive here to study everything and keep kicking the can down the road.

    Perhaps the real solution here is to restructure the legislature into districts more representative of an area of the state. We could slash the number of representatives down to a reasonable number and make being a representative a full-time job. By doing this you would have a representative who truly was interested in serving the people who they are suppose or they would get replaced. It would open up the field to everyone to run. As long as we continue to use the present system only people who have the wealth and other resources that few Vermonter have will serve in Montpelier.

    • Everything you said is true. The problem is that you need to change the legislature to bring about those changes. The people in there now are drunk on power and would never entertain anything that would limit that power. At least we are talking about how to affect change. We need a strong candidate to go against our governor in the next primary, a person with charisma, knowledge of the problems and corrective policy ideas and plenty of cash to counter the liberal media. Our current governor (who I voted for) is not a conservative and is barely a republican. At least he is from Vermont. Just one man’s opinion!

      • Governor change is great, but we really need to have more commons sense people in government, people free to vote outside a party platform, at the same time enough structure to get people elected and not trigger those who have been brainwashed in party ideology. We’d need support, numbers and dollars, probably 30k for house race and 60k for senate race. All efforts going to support those running. it would be nice to have 5 or 6 people in the senate. If we took those people who ran for higher office and coordinated them for a lower senate seat we might had chance on blocking the non-sense from Montpelier. One problem is Senate Position doesn’t pay too much, so there would be sacrifice for many.

        People like Dan Feliciano, Keith Stern, Bob Orleck, Brian Dube, Jim Douglas, Scott Milne, some of the posters on Vt Digger and this site…you’d have some major league players joining a JV League, you’d build momentum, you’d get votes, you’d form a socialist/Marxist blockade.

        If you can get a “new coalition” professing common sense over party lines you’d win some seats, if people worked together with a common sense platform that embraced democrats instead of calling them libtards then you could lift more lesser known candidates, you’d have something.

        We’d have to break the cycle of division, envy, pride, etc. We’d have to bring people together in harmony, Love, Joy and Peace it’s way more fun and inclusive. It would bring us together to form a more perfect union.

  7. Rob, excellent article but nothing in the legislator will change, as long as the Progressive
    DemocRATs are in control…… With NO Governor Veto power, they will run rampant with
    there foolish agenda !!.

    Vermont is becoming a mini ( California or New York ) nothing I’m interested, the state that
    I grew up in is almost gone…………..Wake up Vermont !!

  8. Rob, couldn’t agree more. BUT the real issue is, how do these nincompoops keep getting elected and reelected? We all state our displeasure with what happens in Montpelier, yet come November they all have a party and rejoin their fellow cohorts in Montpelier come January passing legislation never discussed during the campaign.

    • I believe a major reason that the tax and spend legislators are getting elected / re-elected is the choices voters have, especially in the Democrat party. Here in the NEK we have Democrat senators that do not always vote their party line. We need more Democrats that are willing to confront and debate against the party line and vote for their constituents best interests.

      • Sorry Larry, the last thing we need is more democrats of any stripe. If you keep voting for democrats, liberals or progressives, you are the reason Vermont is is this police state position. I hope I’m wrong but the evidence points to the fact that people keep voting democrat and the state keeps getting worse. I’m in my 60s and about had enough. My only solution is to leave or stay and suffer living in poverty.

  9. “Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them.”
    Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of the Causes and Necessities of Taking up Arms, 1775

    “The instability of our laws is really an immense evil. I think it would be well to provide in our constitutions that there shall always be a twelve-month between the ingross-ing a bill & passing it: that it should then be offered to its passage without changing a word: and that if circumstances should be thought to require a speedier passage, it should take two thirds of both houses instead of a bare majority.” Thomas Jefferson, Letter to James Madison, 1787

  10. Excellent article Rob. The constant barrage of new taxes every year is killing this state. The “Golden Domers” must realize our pockets are NOT bottomless. It’s time to take Vermont away from the Progressives and return to a Conservative Vermont. #802VTALLLIANCE

  11. Great article, the percentage of folks at the public trough or on some type of public dole outnumber those struggling to work and pay taxes. Our current situation is troublesome but what’s really scary…the unsustainable direction these far left loons are dragging Vermont.

  12. In Chicago they have very rich and very poor. Since we’ve adopted their organizers and ways, we’ll got the same road.

  13. Have they put a tax on departing from the state yet? In the short term, it could yield substantial revenues. Of course, the “short term revenues” will be true of these other tax revenues, too – and for the same reasons. They punish the productive sector for remaining in Vermont. That’s the salient genius of Socialism. By the time you realize you can’t possibly live with it, you can’t possibly live without it – since your money isn’t yours any more. They’ve got you.

  14. That’s a great an informative article. I agree with everything that you wrote. We have as a State becoming a mini California with a legislature that knows what’s best for the people. Where is their COMMON SENSE legislation?
    I don’t know who voted these fools in but they must be voted out before this State is completely ruined.
    It sure isn’t the Vermont that I grew up in.

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