We all want a healthy planet, and we want our government to play an important role in protecting our environment, but what’s happening in the Vermont Legislature today has crossed the line into what amounts to an obsessive, dangerous, and unhealthy disorder.
Although numerous Northeast governors have either backed out of or made statements against the regional Transportation and Climate Initiative, Vermont state lawmakers on Thursday discussed the matter as if TCI remains very much alive.
Vermonters are more than willing to roll up our sleeves and work together on climate solutions that are sensible, affordable and that can be measured locally in the short term for accountability. But joining TCI would hobble us.
If New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island don’t participate in the TCI program, that would leave Massachusetts — whose governor, Charlie Baker, is probably TCI’s biggest booster — completely isolated.
The real beneficiaries of this scheme to tax Vermonters for their fuel use are the rich and powerful. State government, with an annual budget totaling over 1.5 billion and a workforce of over 8,000, will grow bigger, administering complex regulations proposed by the initiative.
Any revenue raised through taxes or licenses that raise the costs of fossil fuels should be used in two ways. One is that some other tax should be reduced to offset the revenue. A second is that the additional revenue should be re-distributed to working Vermonters and small Vermont businesses.
Even a casual look at the regional plan to make Vermont drivers pay 5-20 cents per gallon more at the pump for gasoline and diesel would tell you TCI really should stand for “tax carbon incessantly.” This session, most Vermonters would be happy if TCI stood for “tax cut instead.”
Proponents of TCI have been traveling the state in advance of the legislative session to peddle the notion that TCI is not a tax because the money raised will be “invested” in government programs, with the full expectation that we dumb citizens will actually buy it.
A key watchword in 2020 will be “incentivizing.” Taxpayers must snap into alertness whenever they hear this shifty expression, because it masks true intent. In Orwellian fashion, the word generally is presented as a positive, when in fact it is always a negative.
TCI is a multistate regional agreement to drive up the price of motor fuel. It proposes to start at 5, 9 or 17 cents per gallon, and escalate upward from that, with no declared maximum.
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has long declared his strong opposition to a carbon tax. The TCI — which taxes motor fuel based on its carbon content — clearly is one. We fully expect him to follow Gov. Sununu’s lead for the good of all Vermont’s poor, and remote, residents.