Roper: Surplus shows why Vermont needs a Taxpayer Bill of Rights

By Rob Roper

So, the numbers are in and Vermont ended its fiscal year with nearly a $60 million revenue surplus. ($58.4 million to be exact, or 4.5% above forecasts.) This is largely thanks to an extra $43.5 million in personal income tax collections and $38 million in corporate income taxes.

Sixty million in a state of 620,000 is not a small amount of cash. It’s a little less than $100 for every Vermont man, woman and child (roughly speaking, $400 for a family of four). Think of this as the amount the state government overcharged you in the 2019 fiscal year for services provided.

Rob Roper

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

In a just world, or in the private sector, when the customer gives the service provider more than necessary to meet the contract — handing over a $10 bill to pay for an $8 sandwich, for example —the provider gives the customer back the surplus amount in change.

But this is government. “Progressive” government. So, they’re gonna just keep that money because they are smarter than you and can find better uses for it. This is your money. If a private company operated this way, Vermont’s attorney general would be first in line bringing a lawsuit for unfair or fraudulent business practices.

This is why Vermont needs a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). TABOR basically states that any revenue raised beyond what was required to meet the fiscal year’s budgeted obligations must be returned to the taxpayers. Period. End of discussion.

Colorado passed a TABOR in 1992, and it has been at the heart of that state’s long-running economic success. The Denver Post explains their law:

  • Limits how many tax dollars governments can keep using a formula that adjusts each year based on population and inflation. It’s called the TABOR cap, and anything a government collects above the cap gets returned as a TABOR tax refund.
  • Limits when lawmakers can ask voters to raise taxes. They can’t use special elections and only questions related to TABOR or taxes can be on the ballot in odd-numbered years.
  • Requires those asking for a tax hike to put the total amount they expect to collect first in the ballot language and then explain how that money would be used.
  • Prohibits charging certain Coloradans more in taxes than others — as the federal government does with its income brackets.
  • Bans raising certain kinds of taxes, like one on real estate transfers.

It would be nice if Vermont had something similar, wouldn’t it. You’d be looking forward to a $100 rebate check in the mail instead of feeling ripped off.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Flickr/

10 thoughts on “Roper: Surplus shows why Vermont needs a Taxpayer Bill of Rights

  1. Perhaps any surplus should immediately be sent to the retirement and retirement health care funds – which are drastically underfunded

    Another Idea is to have the first item on the “budget” be a substantial payment down on the various Gov’t debts – most of which are not properly funded

  2. What we really need in this state is recall and referendum. — that will solve the tax and spend problem faster. Maybe even before everyone that can, moves out of Vermont.

    But if I was going to spend a windfall, I would use it to exempt people over 65 from school taxes. They have paid their way in life, have a fixed income, no kids in school, and won’t be inclined to move out of the state. It would also help control the never ending school spending for union votes.

  3. TABOR is only fair, but with the Lib/Prog/Crazies in Montpelier it will never happen. I’ll bet they can’t wait to get back in January to invent some feel good project on which to squander this unexpected wind fall.

  4. And in that TABOR – annexing legislature from their pickpocketing thievery of viewing individual tax returns to determine how much these crooks can safely extract from taxpayers including fee hikes before our ribs start showing – another result of the one-party reign of terror. Oh and whether we can afford to support Scotts donor base of car dealerships by enacting the privacy violating, crippling and costly inspections which directly impact the poor which is fast becoming the majority.

    A new layer of hellishness has been added: a test to detect if battery has been removed w/in 100 miles so as to make check-engine dashlight go out. There are dashlights that will not go out period such as the dreaded triangle of doom which afflicts the Prius but does not signify a real problem.

    How about an investigation into the origens of this law and who’s the beneficiary and doing the ‘testing’ including pertinent foias…

    • I agree the boondoggle of over government involvement in the Safety Inspection has gone beyond the realm of sanity. Back 30years ago when I was working on Autos it was about the Cars safety now with climatetardism running roughshod it’s about the stupid car’s computer spitting out codes that don’t necessarily mean squat…
      A corroded wire end or shorted sensor can mean $1000+ repair bill to be legal. The cost of this over intrusive gov is just another reason all the younin’s beat feet outta here… Electing stupid fascist legislators gets you stupid over reaching expensive government

  5. Heretic Heretic —- SAMESHAMESHAME – out breaks of this kind of wrongthink are going to turn Vermont into …?!W@?T$?F!???… God only knows. We need to be inoculated against this kind of rational tax obstructive thinking. Next thing you know we’ll have folks talking about reducing government. ShutterShutter — sounds of indignant, apoplectic exasperation.

  6. I’m not really sure why there would be a surplus. I’ve only lived in Vermont for a couple of months and could easily come up with things they could spend it on! But if they aren’t going to do anything to better Vermont, refund it quick before it just goes into the politicians’ pockets! Oops, too late.

    • Biskit, if you’ve only lived in Vermont a couple months and you “could easily come up with things they could spend it on” you sound like all the folks we currently have in Montpelier.

      • Matt, if you don’t see any issues that need addressing in Vermont and you believe that everything is perfect here, you should be thanking everyone in Montpelier.

        • Biskit, plenty wrong here in Vt, most of it by Montpelier spending, taxing and regulation. I don’t want more tax, more spending and more regulation.

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