State Headliners: Act 250 revision report due Friday, Internet sales tax could reach $20 million

By Guy Page

The Commission on Act 250: the Next 50 Years will review a draft report for changes to Vermont’s land development and use law, 10 a.m. Friday in the House Chambers of the Vermont State House in Montpelier.

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Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, and Physicians, Families & Friends for a Better Vermont.

The six-member commission has been meeting since last year, after being created by the 2017 session of the Legislature.  A final report with proposed changes to Act 250 is due Dec. 15. The draft report to be reviewed this Friday is not posted on the Commission website at this time.

As reported by Headliners Nov. 2, the commission has received subcommittee reports that Act 250 as written has not controlled development as planned when it took effect in 1970. The commission members lean towards a “slow growth” philosophy and in their final report may recommend extending Act 250’s reach in both land use planning and regulatory decision-making. It is likely the Legislature will seek to revise Act 250 during the 2019 session consistent with the commission’s recommendations.

The commission is also scheduled to meet Nov. 30, Dec. 7, and Dec. 14.

Internet sales tax could reach $20 million annually

Recently the U.S. Supreme Court required all states to collect sales taxes on internet purchases. In an op-ed published in the Journal-Opinion of Bradford, State College Chancellor Jeb Spaulding asks Vermonters to lobby Gov. Scott and legislators to invest that money in higher education.

“This is projected to add between four and five million dollars in unexpected new revenues to state coffers this year, another $7 million next year, and ultimately $15 to $20 million annually,” the former Vermont state senator and State Treasurer said. “This new money would be pivotal to providing Vermonters with more affordable access to high quality public education.”

As the former legislator knows all too well, legislative appropriations committee members will have their own ideas about how to spend that windfall. Can’t blame him for trying, though.

Former mayor fed up with State using Northeast Kingdom as “Dumping Ground”

A former mayor of Newport wants the rest of Vermont to know that he and many other Northeast Kingdom residents are sick of rural northeastern Vermont being treated as the state’s dumping ground.

Charles Pronto sent a blistering letter to state officials that was also published in the Nov. 7 Chronicle, the weekly newspaper for the Northeast Kingdom. He notes several sore points:

  • The Coventry landfill has become the dump for refuse from all over Vermont, not just for the local solid waste district, as promised by the State.
  • When the State built the Newport prison 27 years ago, it promised it 1) would not get bigger and 2) would not attract undesirable residents to Newport.  “Well, it got bigger and the undesirable people have come with it,” Pronto wrote.
  • 15 years ago the State partnered with the EB-5 program. Instead of the long-promised economic development, “what we have now is a big hole in the middle of our downtown. Just another state promise not kept.”
  • At about the same time, the State supported the plan to “blast the tops of our mountains off” to put up wind turbines. A promised radar system to turn warning lights on only when planes approached never happened either, Pronto said.

“I think you get the picture,” Pronto writes. “This is life in the NEK. Broken promises and the dumping ground for the State of Vermont. We are all sick of it … we hear $19 million is going to clean up Lake Champlain while you [state officials] are allowing the NEK to be the depository of all the crappy things the state needs to find a place for.”

Pronto might have added that the state is now poised to perpetrate a carbon tax on every gallon of gasoline and heating oil and propane. NEK residents spend a higher percentage of its household income on these necessities than any other region, as reported in the July 27 Headliners.

A century ago, Vermont sectionalism was so strong that the dominant Republican Party indulged in the luxury of ensuring that if the current governor lived west of the Green Mountains, two years later the next governor  would be from east of the mountains, and the governor after him would once again come from the west.  Since World War II the population has shifted more to the western part of the state, and the rise of the Democratic Party has put an end to one party picking the hometown of the next governor. The last governor from the Northeast Kingdom was Lee Emerson (1951-55) – born in Hardwick, raised in Barton.

Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.

Images courtesy of Bruce Parker/TNR and Page Communications
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