By Rob Roper
Last fall, carbon tax supporters staged a major push to build support for their latest carbon taxing scheme, the ESSEX Plan. It has been a flop to say the least. So, to keep this zombie concept out of the grave where it belongs and roaming the countryside (at least long enough to get past the November election) carbon taxers shifted their efforts to passing a taxpayer-funded “study” of various carbon taxing concepts (H.763). Even this has received a tepid response. The governor said he would veto it. So, now their hope is to stick the language from the stand-alone bill into the “must-pass” budget bill, where they hope the thing will become law by default.
Whether or not that happens is currently in the hands of the House Appropriations Committee, which can add funding for the carbon tax study directly into to the budget (the Big Bill) — or not. Incorporating H.763 into the Big Bill would allow legislators to pass it without having to cast a direct roll call vote in support of the carbon tax agenda. Pretty sneaky, huh! Not doing so would leave the bill to languish “on the wall” to die.
The language in H.763 would direct the Joint Fiscal Office to evaluate the costs and benefits of various carbon tax proposals. JFO testified against the bill, saying that they did not have the expertise to perform the study and that subcontracting the job to a qualified consultant would be cost prohibitive, far exceeding the $100,000 allocated.
The political dynamic at play here is that support for the carbon tax outside the Statehouse is driven primarily by influential big donors from the renewable energy industry. These folks would benefit mightily from a carbon tax that would simultaneously drive up the cost of their competitors’ products while providing taxpayer-funded subsidies, either directly or indirectly, to their own businesses. Those donors want to see something for their money, even if it’s just a study that keeps the ball moving down the field.
(FYI, members of the House Appropriations committee are, Reps. Kitty Toll (Chair, D-Danville), Peter Fagan (R-Rutland), Maureen Dakin (D-Colchester), Martha Feltus (R-Lyndon), Robert Helm (R-Castleton), Mary Hooper (D-Montpelier), Berard Juskiewicz (R-Cambridge), Diane Lanpher (D-Vergennes), Mathew Trieber (D-Rockingham), and David Yacavone (D-Morristown).