Statehouse Headliners: House votes to double heating fuel tax for weatherization, carbon reduction

By Guy Page

H.439, a bill to double the tax on most home heating fuels, passed the Vermont House Tuesday afternoon after lengthy debate. It was opposed by most Republicans and independents and supported by most Democrats and Progressives.

Revenue from raising the existing 2 cents per gallon tax to 4 cents would increase state funding for home weatherization. H.439 passed the House Ways & Means Committee by a narrow 6-5 margin. Friday, it was debated on the House floor but action was postponed.

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

During a break today before the vote, several legislators compared H.439 to a carbon tax. “It’s misguided,” Rep. Patrick Seymour, R-Sutton, said. “I’ve heard some people say ‘it’s only four cents.’ But on a 200-gallon tank that’s eight dollars. I know some people who don’t have two cents to rub together.”

Seymour, a 22-year-old who was raised on a Northeast Kingdom dairy farm and is a devotee of free market economist Milton Friedman, also questions whether a state program is the most cost-effective way to deliver weatherization to Vermonters.

Rep. George Till, D-Underhill/Jericho, led the floor discussion by saying that heating fuel market costs fluctuate from year to year, and this tax won’t be significantly noticed by fuel buyers. Till, a doctor, also said home weatherization is a health issue because unweatherized homes can cause hypothermia.

Rep. Mary Sullivan, D-Burlington, noted Vermont is not meeting its statutory greenhouse gas reduction goals. “Study after study shows that weatherization is the best way [to reduce emissions] by far. … We have great goals, we have everything but action items. This bill is an action item.”

Rep. Frances “Topper” McFaun, R-Barre Town, said, “What I see happening here is something I don’t like. We’re attacking a commodity, and we’re passing it [the cost] on to the very people that we’re trying to help. … This is not the way to fund it. We need to find another way.“

“I would urge the body to vote against this. You are doubling our tax. Think again! Find a better way to finance this. Don’t put the burden on the very people we are trying to help,” Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington, an opponent of the bill, said. Charging low-income Vermonters more to stay warm “is the Achilles heel and you are seeing it right now.”

“You are doubling our tax,” Rep. Browning repeated. “You are doubling a tax on one of the necessities of life. This is a regressive tax, and you are doubling it.”

Supporter Rep. Avram Patt, D-Worcester, called weatherization the “low hanging fruit” on emissions reduction. Supporter Rep. Tom Stevens, D-Waterbury, said people don’t mind being taxed if they know what it’s being spent for, and people support weatherization.

“This is a small piece of a carbon tax. Do you believe this could be called a carbon tax?” Opponent Rep. Brian Smith, R-Derby, asked bill sponsor Jim Masland, D-Thetford. Negative, Masland said. Carbon taxes are meant to discourage consumption, and “I’m going to heat my house whether I have to pay a carbon tax or not,” and weatherization will help reduce carbon emissions, he said.

Smith also said the Legislature would do better to find a way to cut state spending and allocate savings to weatherization.

“It’s money that will be well spent. … This is the green economy, this is what we are talking about,” Rep. Jean O’Sullivan, D-Burlington, said.

But for Jim Harrison, H.439 is just too close to being a carbon tax that he told his constituents he would oppose. “If I was asked once this fall I was asked a hundred times, ‘do you support a carbon tax?’” Whether or not this bill is technically a carbon tax, “I said I would vote no, and I will vote no.”

“The reason this isn’t a carbon tax is that a carbon tax is a tax on carbon content, this is a tax on fuel,” supporter Rep. Scott Campbell, D-St. Johnsbury, said.

“Remember, thousands of Vermonters work in businesses related to fuel,” Rep. James Gregoire, R-Fairfield, said.

Before the final vote, a move to send the bill to another committee failed on a roll call vote. The bill now goes to the Senate. It is not known whether Gov. Phil Scott, a strong opponent of carbon taxation, would sign the bill.

In other Statehouse news, H.418, to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in municipal elections, last week failed to progress from the Government Operations Committee before the March 15 crossover date. Thus it cannot be passed into law this year unless legislative leaders vote to suspend the rules to do so — an act that is considered unlikely. It could be taken up next year, the second year of the biennium.

If it had passed, 16- and 17-year-olds would have been allowed to vote in all municipal elections, including (if retail marijuana bill S.54 passes) the decision on whether or not to allow retail marijuana stores within town limits. However, in merged school districts they would not have been allowed to vote on school issues including budget and school board members.

Also, the House Appropriations Committee cut funds to pay sheriffs to supervise mentally ill patients in Vermont emergency rooms, VTDigger reported. In addition to addressing some regulatory concerns, the state will save $268,000 by cutting the line item.

Marijuana legalization will only add financial pressures on Vermont’s emergency rooms, if Colorado’s experience is any guide. A March 25 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that the rise in marijuana use in Colorado since the state legalized the drug has led to increased emergency room visits. The study found that 9,973 marijuana-related emergency room visits occurred from 2012-2016, more than triple the number that occurred prior to legalization.

Additionally, the study found that 10.7 percent of visits at University of Colorado Health hospital were due to the ingestion of high potency marijuana edibles. These conclusions track a recent Lancet medical journal study finding that consumption of high potency THC caused half of Amsterdam’s new ER visits and 30 percent of London’s new ER visits.

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.

Image courtesy of Bruce Parker/TNR
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22 thoughts on “Statehouse Headliners: House votes to double heating fuel tax for weatherization, carbon reduction

  1. This State is really getting out of control. Who voted these fools in?? It sure as hell wasn’t me. Tax, Tax and Tax some more. These fools need to go back to whatever State they came from. They must all be related to Bernie..

  2. “This is a small piece of a carbon tax. Do you believe this could be called a carbon tax?” Opponent Rep. Brian Smith, R-Derby, asked bill sponsor Jim Masland, D-Thetford. Negative, Masland said. Carbon taxes are meant to discourage consumption, and “I’m going to heat my house whether I have to pay a carbon tax or not,” and weatherization will help reduce carbon emissions, he said.”

    Every Carbon tax I have seen taxes not only vehicle fuel but every other carbon based fuel. Home heating oil/propane, farm equipment fuel, jet fuel, etc. In this case they’re excluding on road diesel fuel but including off road diesel fuel that is used by farmers for just about every thing they do. How many wealthy farmers do you know in Vermont besides David Zuckerman? (I bet he’s for this tax)

    When I lived in Vermont every farmer I knew pretty much struggled year to year to put food on the table. These liberal elites don’t care about the struggling folks, why would they impose a tax on the very (poor)folks they are trying to help? The very bright Democrat Rep. Browning noted just that. Because this is nothing more then double speak by the folks that claim to be champions of the poor- The Left.

    Ask yourself, why do these folks want to reduce consumption? The answer is obvious – to reduce emissions.

    Why does these folks want to use this tax to improve weatherization? The answer is obvious – to reduce emissions. It was noted right in the article by other dems.

    “Rep. Mary Sullivan, D-Burlington, noted Vermont is not meeting its statutory greenhouse gas reduction goals. “Study after study shows that weatherization is the best way [to reduce emissions] by far.”

    You are implementing this tax to reduce/discourage consumption via weatherization. It’s a carbon tax folks. These guys are trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

    Now from the dictionary

    car·bon tax
    /ˈkärbən taks/
    noun
    a tax on fossil fuels, especially those used by motor vehicles, intended to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide.

    a tax on the burning of fuels such as coal, gas, and oil. Its aim is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

    Folks this is a carbon tax anyway you see it. These guys are playing with words to try to manipulate it to sound like it isn’t a carbon tax. Maybe Dr. Till, wouldn’t notice the extra bill but hey most of the folks in Vermont aren’t wealthy doctors.

    Enjoy that.

  3. TAX, TAX, TAX!!!!!! That’s the only solution these clowns have for every problem, real or imagined that they see and they think $10,000 will entice the brightest to uproot their families to move to a high tax state???? Now, that’s brilliant!!!

  4. Army ants work this way to take down an elephant. En mass slowly infiltrating and swarming, then millions of small bites and soon the largest land animal is weakened and falls. All for the good of the community of ants, elephant be damned. Taxes and fees work the same way.
    Time to find a new watering hole.

  5. Picture the future as Doctor Zhivago pilfers pieces of a wooden fence for firewood and is caught by his half brother, the policeman. Ultimately, there will be two classes of people if the socialistic legislature has their way with their plans of wealth distribution, Peasants (us) and Nobles (politicians), where the peasants will lose their right to vote for their leaders and it will be the leaders who pick their successors.

  6. This is the mind of total stupidity: Supporter Rep. Tom Stevens, D-Waterbury, said people don’t mind being taxed if they know what it’s being spent for, and people support weatherization.

    Where in the hell is he and his cohorts from, La La land? Oh I forgot, he probably moved here and has a mega bankroll and doesn’t associate with “commoners”. Been eating too much Ben & Jerry’s liberal product. Freakish!

    Oh yes a penny here and a penny there then it becomes money, the creeping crud.
    Take a simple penny then double it the next day, then double that the next day (2 cents), the double that (4 cents). At the end of a month (30 days) the penny accumulates to $2,684,354.56. That’s for each fuel oil user, figures don’t lie, but liars can figure. Don’t be surprised. Stevens doesn’t have a clue.

    Confiscate money from one family to give to another is welfare, Communism, Socialism, stupidity!

  7. I’m reminded of the saying, “You can put lipstick on a pig and dress it up but it’s still a pig”. This is nothing more than a poor disguise for a carbon tax. Who do they think they are fooling? Next is a gas and diesel fuel tax increase to pay for EV charging stations. That will complete the camels nose under the tent. I just don’t know what it is going to take for Vermonters to begin to vote these agenda driven politicians out of office.

  8. It is a small down payment on the very high, unilateral, regressive carbon taxes yet to come to finance Vermont’s GREEN NEW DEAL.
    « We can always grow it », is the mantra of many DEM/PROG legislators.
    Distribution Socialism is King.

    • Sorry but it quacks like a duck … that heating fuel tax has Carbon tax written all over it. If that’s not a carbon tax, then what is?

      They are slipping it in hoping no one will notice.

      I need a bowl of popcorn!

  9. I’ve been grousing about a $5 fuel surcharge on my propane bill for every delivery.
    I was told that it is mandated by the Attorney General(?) to collect this ten years ago when diesel was over $4 a gallon.
    My bill last month was $28 for propane +$5 surcharge. Kind of steep I’d say,18%+. Insane.

  10. We the people CAN’T afford to pay the prices now and you people want to raise everything Y’ALL ARE SUPPOSED TO BE WORKING FOR US NOT your self. All of you are very shellfish

  11. Rep. Mary Sullivan (D) Burlington, states that we are not meeting our greenhouse gas reduction goals. Is she not keeping up todate. We are far exceeding our goals now that the fourth private college( College of St.Joseph)has announced it is closing for good in June. These closings along with the fact that we have more people dying in Vermont than births are huge boosts in meeting our climate goals—-and will only get better.

  12. This isn’t the “green economy” as the leftard from burlington O’sullivan would have you think, this is robbing middle class Peter to pay poor class Paul.. It’s out right
    theft of heating from one to pay for “insulating Job” for another. IT’s a TAX that isn’t needed and for sure as Stevens would have you believe People won’t mind I’d say YOUR ALL out your minds You Fascist Taxocrats .. Kick the flatlanders back to the demontard hell holes they came from that will improve VT immensely..and do away with unwanted or unneeded taxation for agenda.

  13. H.439, a bill to double the tax on most home heating fuels, passed the Vermont House Tuesday afternoon after lengthy debate, debate this is like kicking a dead horse the Progressive DemocRATs
    have an agenda….. Vermonters, here another tax towards foolishness !!

    According to this article, H.439 was” opposed ” by Republicans and independents and supported by DemocRATs and Progressives…….

    Wake up Vermont, you vote these fools and their agenda in they could care less about your
    budget concerns or problems !!

  14. OMG!! These people will never change!! NO don’t double the tax on fuels!! What are you people brain dead?? it’s in effect a carbon tax !! Which they are just dying to make us all pay!!

    So sick of these dumb moves! Get me the hell outta this state!

    • ” Get me the hell outta this state!”

      Best financial move you will ever make, and the puppets in the golden bubble says it never happens.

      Call their bluff. It’s the only way they will learn.

        • Ha. Eaten up in less then two years by the out of control property taxes. No thanks. My cars no longer get eat by Salt Brine. I can expect to get 10 plus years with ease out of my next car purchase.

          Not that I’m ready to retire but VT just got ranked 47th by wallet hub to retire in. 47th…. yep NH came in nicely at 4th. Vermont continues it’s spiral down the crapper. Just glad I’m not longer going down with it.

          • But, But, But, But I trust Libs with their “we’re for you money!!!! Free money!!!! I might get no tax assessments as well. Utopia and I can get rid of a kid if I want, no responsibility. WOW! Don’t worry about rusted cars, get a free one every two years.

            On the real side: A list of taxes paid from confiscated money, web site says 97, It’s actually over 120.From the “The Economic Collapse blog”
            https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-03-25/list-97-taxes-americans-pay-every-year?page=1
            Noted the date was 2014 in the link.

            Getting $10K won’t last a year. AND “75 years ago, the instructions for Form 1040 were two pages long. Today, they are 189 pages long. VT tax paperwork XXX hours long, if paying taxes. .” More money lost.

            Ah, Vermont (TaxUmont) is in a cess pool along with the rest of the floaters.

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