Wealth tax pops up again in Senate Energy Committee, could fund climate council agenda

One of Vermont’s most ardent green energy lawmakers has again called for a wealth tax to help pay for the implementation of renewable technologies.

In a meeting of the Senate Energy Committee last Wednesday, state Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington, made a pitch for S.44, an act relating to a Vermont Green New Deal.

“I believe that when it comes to climate change, we are in an emergency situation and need to raise revenues in order to make investments in climate change actions that will help us alleviate the problem as soon as possible,” Pollina told the committee.

“I think we’ve been pretty good at setting goals in the past and in the present, but we really need to raise revenue in order to ensure that we can reach those goals,” he said.

Photo courtesy of state of Vermont

FOR THE WEALTH TAX: Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington, told the Senate Energy Committee he thinks a wealth tax on the wealthiest 5% of Vermonters will be necessary for spending on green energy projects.

The recently passed Global Warming Solutions Act says Vermont must achieve its official green energy targets, including 90 percent renewable energy use by 2050. In addition to transforming Vermont’s green energy goals into mandates, it allows individual Vermonters to take legal action against the state if these targets aren’t met.

Pollina said S.44 could be an important component for funding the projects that come from of the new 23-member climate council, also a product of the GWSA. He said that his bill would put an income tax surcharge on the wealthiest 5% of Vermonters. This charge is estimated by the Joint Fiscal Office to raise about $30 million per year.

“Those [are the] folks who I think are most able to afford a contribution to climate action,” Pollina said, adding that projects might include weatherization, renewable energy, regenerative agriculture, and electric vehicles.

A surcharge on an income tax has been done before in Vermont about three decades ago, according to Pollina. At that time, the surcharge was simply to have Vermonters contribute more to the economy in general.

The senator hinted that the state will need more money from other sources if green energy targets are to be met.

“I know we are going to be asking other folks to chip in. We’re going to be talking later on this year and the next year and the years to come about the various fees that will be added to taxes and energy sources and whatnot,” Pollina said.

Sen. Chris Bray, D-Addison, the committee chair, noted that lawmakers will seek a combination of funding sources to push green initiatives in the years to come.

“My hope is that we assemble a collection of tools and then we don’t have to lean on any one thing so hard,” he said. “And my hope is that that makes for a more regional package all the way around as opposed to the silver bullet, which could be a very expensive silver bullet.”

Bray has been at the forefront of calls to increase weatherization of Vermont homes. While that often means patching up air leaks to reduce heating costs, it can also mean promoting cold climate heat pumps, another new and subsidized green technology.

Cost estimates on weatherization range wildly, from Gov. Phil Scott’s $25 million proposal to the $3.1 billion plan called for by Bray.

In addition to weatherization and home heating, climate mitigation goals of the climate council will include pushing the electrification of the transportation sector, including continuing to push subsidized electric cars, and more renewables such as solar and wind power.

Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Windsor, expressed some concern about the possibility to pushing wealthy residents out of the state due to high taxes.

“I’m wondering if you have any actual information on what the point of diminishing returns is?” he asked. “How far can we push the income tax before it starts to alienate other people with the money?”

Pollina was not concerned about that potential outcome.

“In general, the fact is that wealthy people don’t leave when you raise taxes,” he said. “There’s no evidence of that taking place.”

A study released in February by the Pioneer Institute suggests otherwise. “The data show a persistent trend of wealth leaving high-tax states for low-tax ones, especially in the Sun Belt,” it states.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

18 thoughts on “Wealth tax pops up again in Senate Energy Committee, could fund climate council agenda

  1. Mr Polinna.

    The wealthiest 5% MIGHT pay $30,000,000 in additional Wealth taxes…..
    ……….Exactly ONCE!

    Once and Done, Fla. Tennessee, Arizona, LOTS of options.

    Bring on more illegal aliens – to replace our dear Departed Employers and Investors!!

  2. The big government concept has been expanding since the day Phil Hoff was sworn in in 1963.
    Expansion by increments has brought us to where we are today, and this has been made easier each year because of the steady importation of the loons from wherever.(Other states who were glad to see them go).
    Government measured by a per capita indicator will put VT at or near the top of the list today, along with a ranking of 46th out of 50 as a state with a friendly economical factor for retired people. Compared to the 50’s and 60’s, there is nothing left in VT. So we go right on electing these same fools wo put us where we are currently. Major changes to be effective and get things turned around will have to be happening in the next couple of elections or there will be no turning around.
    Individually most of us who write here have a good concept of things, but what can we do to actually get accomplished what we need to? None of us can do it all, but all of us can do something. I am about to turn 81, and I can do something. Lets get to work, before it is doomsday forever.

  3. A very interesting recap of climate/weather history: moonbattery.com/worst-junk-science-in-2000-years/

  4. When the stork flew over the Dome to deliver some common sense, the plebeian’s were absent cooking up controlling measures elsewhere and weren’t recipients. No common sense in Montpelier.

    But, I’m sure they submitted their travel vouchers to get “reimbursed”, ref D. Zimmerman exposing the (his) corruption.

  5. As a follow-up to my earlier comment, the use of “cold climate” heat pumps, in average Vermont houses, is a total folly, as was proven by the VT-DPS survey of existing HP installations.

    Saving $200/y on a $4,500 system, that lasts at most 15 years, is definitively no cause for celebration of any kind.

    AIR SOURCE heat pumps do NOT perform EFFICIENTLY at low temperatures, due to the laws of Physics 101, i.e., that drawback cannot be “cured”.

    They COULD be a heating substitute for only HIGHLY SEALED/HIGHLY INSULATED houses.

    All this has been very well known by engineers for DECADES, including VT-DPS engineers.
    However, obfuscating (one way of telling lies) about that HP drawback is prevalent in government and other circles.

    Here is my actual experience:

    Heat Pumps are Money Losers in my Vermont House (as they are in most people’s houses)

    My annual electricity consumption increased about 50% (the various taxes, fees, and surcharges also increased), after I installed three Mitsubishi, 24,000 Btu/h heat pumps, each with 2 heads; 2 in the living room, 1 in the kitchen, and 1 in each of 3 bedrooms.
    The heat pumps last about 15 years.

    They are used for heating and cooling my 35-y-old, well-sealed/well-insulated house.
    They displaced a small fraction of my normal 1200-gallon propane consumption.

    My existing Viessmann propane system, 95%-efficient in condensing mode, is used on cold days, 15F or less, because heat pumps have low efficiencies, i.e., low Btu/kWh, at exactly the same time my house would need the most heat; a perverse situation, due to the laws of Physics 101!!

    I have had no energy cost savings, because of high household electric rates, augmented with taxes, fees and surcharges. Vermont forcing, with subsidies, the addition of expensive RE electricity to the mix, would make matters worse!!

    Amortizing the $24,000 turnkey capital cost at 3.5%/y for 15 years costs about $2,059/y; I am losing money.

    There likely will be service calls and parts for the heat pumps, as the years go by, in addition to service calls and parts for the existing propane system; I am losing more money.

    If I had a highly sealed, highly insulated house, with the same efficient propane heating system, my house would use very little energy for heating.
    If I would install heat pumps (I likely would need 3 units at 15,000 Btu/h, at a lesser turnkey capital cost), and would operate the propane system on only the coldest days, I likely would have energy cost savings.
    However, those annual energy cost savings would be overwhelmed by the annual amortizing cost, i.e., I would still be losing money, if amortizing were considered.

    NOTE: VT-DPS found, after a survey of real-world of 87 heat pumps (turnkey cost for a one-head HP system is about $4,500), the annual energy cost savings were, on average, $200/HP, but the annual amortizing costs turned that gain into a loss, i.e., on average, these houses were unsuitable for heat pumps, and the owners were losing money.

    • Willem,

      It’s not about the climate. Us giving them all our money to run little pet projects does not savey the climate.

      It’s all about changing the political climate to communism. Our money will all be the governments and suddenly our “climate problems” will be over!

      Not until they have all our money will the climate be right!

  6. There was an article in SevenDays, a left-leaning outfit, bemoaning the fact the NEK electric grid was sufficient for the people who live there, but that it was not sufficient to satisfy the chasers of federal and state subsidies, who want to build RE energy systems in the NEK.

    The article implied, if those energy systems were not built, the Vermont RE energy goals could not be implemented, i.e., global warming could not be fought, and the world would go down the drain.

    It would take at least $200 to $300 million to upgrade the NEK grid (several $billion for the entire state) to connect the highly subsidized RE projects, that produce expensive electricity, including the highly subsidized wind and solar projects that produce EXPENSIVE, VARIABLE, WEATER-DEPENDENT, wind and solar electricity, that destabilizes the grid, such as due to ever-increasing, midday-solar DUCK-curves.

    McNamara, of VT-DPS, appears to understand, VT adding expensive RE electricity to the mix would scare away people from financially dubious EVs and heat pumps. See my next comment

    When you are in a pit, stop digging, and find something better to do, such as increased energy efficiency, which would reduce CO2 at very LOW cost per metric ton.

    The ill-considered Vermont RE goals would impoverish us all, plus they would do NOTHING regarding global warming, i.e., a flea on an elephant’s ass.

    VT has spent at least $2 BILLION on RE over the past 20 years, and all it has to show for it is higher energy prices, and higher other prices, PLUS an INCREASE in CO2.

    That means, on average, these RE projects have been EXPENSIVE FAILURES for 20 years!!!

    Those who advocate giving those same incompetent RE folks FIVE TIMES AS MUCH MONEY PER YEAR, to implement the ridiculous, Shumlin/Klein-inspired, VT CEP, per mandate of the unconstitutional GWSA, are very far beyond rational.

    One of these follies is the inane, “feel-good” push for electric school buses, that are idle 90% of the hours of the year, to be financed with “free” federal COVID money and “free” Volkswagen Settlement money.

    The cost of CO2 reduction would be about $2,100/metric ton, on an energy basis, about $2,500/metric ton on a lifecycle, A-to-Z basis.

    Energy efficiency measures to reduce energy consumption, CO2, and energy costs, such as by 1) exchanging traditional light bulbs for LEDs, and 2) insulating and sealing energy-hog housing and other buildings, and 3) increasing the mileage of existing gasoline vehicles, would cost $50 to $200 per metric ton, much less than the $2,100/Mt of electric school buses.


  7. The fallacy of wealth migration in Vermont is just that, a fallacy. Polina is incapable of seeing beyond what he wants to believe, ignorant of what is real. I can think of 20+ names that have left Vermont recently, expressly because of the tax burden. Yes, others migrate in, from higher taxed areas like NYC and NJ, CT to ease the pain- but they too will migrate out as Polina and his buddies ratchet up the tax rates.
    Doug Hoffer, VT’s Auditor of Accounts has vehemently denied the outflow of wealthy residents, but it’s happening- regardless of whatever statistic he is currently promoting. The fact remains that Vermont’s 8.95% tax rate, with many Federal deductions not allowed in the VT tax code- means an effective rate well above 12+% for some. This puts a fair amount of Vermont residents paying 50% of their income in income tax alone. Yet Vermont legislators still cannot get enough revenue for their needs. Fine, add in the wealth surcharge. Expand the sales tax- and watch the Vermont economy crash, the high earners leave under the weight of it all.

    • Frank,

      The NH economy is booming.
      NH has a budget surplus from tax collections
      It is friendly to private enterprise

      It has no sales tax
      It has no earned income tax
      It has no capital gains tax
      It has no tax on IRA and other pension fund distributions
      It has no tax on Social Security benefits
      It has no death tax

      It has a flat 5% tax on dividends and interest

      Its property taxes are higher than Vermont only in towns such as Lebanon, Hanover, Manchester. etc.
      In rural areas, they are about the same as Vermont.

  8. Comrades,

    All wealth belongs to the State. We will redistribute in a fair and equable manner.

  9. The only thing keeping me in VT is my grandchildren. I know for a fact that once the top 5% leave the rest of us are next.

  10. It’s a communist council, not a climate council, please change the headline, it has nothing to do with the environment!

  11. Pollina and company could care less about the climate, they are however very interested in socialism and communism.

    Anytime they talk about the climate it has to do with taking money from one group and giving it to another. Very little if anything has to do with climate.

    We do the public a huge disservice by playing along with their charade with headlines suggesting it is about climate. The only climate they want to change is our political climate from republic to communism. The later will have no science, no morals and lots of poverty. Because somehow every time they take money from hardworking people it always has so much shrinkage it never gets to work on “the cause”

    Vemont is more corrupt than the DC, the district od communism. EB 5. hUGE scandal…..were just barely getting to uncover what really happens in Vermont all time!

    Crony capitalism, politicians and beauroccrata filling their pockets on the taxpayer dollar.

  12. So first our governor wants to bring in more refuges without jobs and language skills, whom we, for some time, will have to support through our taxes. This instead of bringing in industry creating jobs first. Pollina wants to tax upper income folks more to give them yet another reason to leave Vermont. Take a good look at what is happening here and in New York. High income earners have been leaving for Florida in droves. Guess why!
    Remember this, high wealth people are very mobile.

    • Not just NY. Kali is hemmoraging wealthier residents to TX, which is changing the political landscape there due to the Kali refugees bringing their politics with them. Texans are resisting — for now.

      The growing secessionist movement there may offer some hope.

  13. Oh boy. Margaret Thatcher must be rolling over in her grave.
    So let me understand this:
    1. Senator Pollina wants to raise income taxes on the 5%
    2. The recent Taxation Structure Committee report issued 2/8/21 says the top 5% of VT taxpayers already pay 48% of the total individual income tax paid.
    3. The same report proposes a new school tax scheme that will shift much of the burden for school taxes from middle income taxpayers to the top 5% of taxpayers.
    4. The same report expresses concerns in multiple places that their recommendations might result in high income taxpayers moving to another state. (pages 21, 57, 136)
    5. And yet, the Senator thinks that “In general, the fact is that wealthy people don’t leave when you raise taxes… There’s no evidence of that taking place.”

    Say what ? What is wrong with this picture ?

Comments are closed.