By Todd Smith | The Caledonian Record
The Vermont House voted 81-60 last week to advance a bill that doubles (from two to four cents a gallon) the tax on heating oil, propane, kerosene and dyed diesel. The bill also increase the gross receipts tax on natural gas and coal to one and one-and-a-half-percent respectively.
The proceeds are supposed to be used to support weatherization of 400 more leaky old homes occupied by low income people. The program began in the 1970s under the auspices of the Office of Economic Opportunity, now part of the Agency of Human Services. One would think that after forty years pretty much every old house in Vermont has been weatherized, but apparently one would be wrong.
Leaving aside the value of the end use of the new revenues (which should be debated), what this bill shows us is the next phase of the five-year battle to enact a carbon tax to “defeat” climate change.
When carbon tax proposals aroused vigorous opposition, the environmental groups adopted a new strategy. They’ll stop trying to sell a wholly impractical and economically calamitous carbon tax. Instead, they’ll cast about for state programs that need more money, like “weatherization,” and tax carbon fuels to expand them.
The current bill is, as one opponent put it, “a carbon tax one percentage point at a time.”
Of particular interest is the statement of St. Johnsbury Democratic Rep. Scott Campbell. Three years ago, running for the House, Campbell made taxing carbon to save the planet a central tenet of his platform. He lost. When he ran in 2018, he denied that he supported a carbon tax… and he won.
Of course he voted for the increased tax on carbon-based heating fuels. His reason? “A carbon tax is a tax on carbon content. This is a tax on fuel.” That would be carbon fuel, wouldn’t it? This argument is dishonest.
Todd M. Smith is the publisher of the Caledonian Record, where this editorial first appeared. He lives in St. Johnsbury.