Editor’s note: This commentary is by Deb Billado, chairwoman of the Vermont GOP.
David Zuckerman’s latest fundraising letter seeking to capitalize on the minimum wage veto fight is jaw dropping in its deception.
He opens lamenting the high cost of living in Vermont, high rents, and a lack of good paying local jobs — every one of which can be traced back to Progressive policies Zuckerman has supported. High rents? Thank Progressive “green” policies that make it difficult to build new housing stock at all, and when you are allowed to build, make it more expensive to do so. As we speak, Zuckerman and his Progressive colleagues in the senate (of which he is president) are making “reforms” to Act 250 that will require any new construction to be “carbon neutral,” as well as steering any new housing projects away from the countryside and into urban centers where real estate is most expensive. What do you think this will do to already high housing costs? High electricity costs? Thank Zuckerman-supported renewable energy mandates. High childcare costs? Thank Zuckerman-supported policies kowtowing to the NEA. We could go on and on.
He and his colleagues are now advocating for an interstate carbon tax on gasoline and diesel fuel called TCI that will drive up the cost of getting around and doing your job. They have a plan to make Vermont use 100% renewable energy that comes with a price tag of $1.2 billion just for the infrastructure, not including the increased cost of energy. From big ticket items like this to small nickel and dime inconveniences like forcing stores to charge you 10¢ for a shopping bag, is how Zuckerman goes about making Vermont “more affordable.”
With similar nonchalance, Zuckerman calls the minimum wage bill Governor Scott just thankfully vetoed “modest,” “gradual,” and “scaled back.” It is none of these things. Modest? How is a 15% increase modest? Gradual? Doing this over just two years is not gradual. (For comparison, Vermonters are looking at a 4-6 percent property tax increase to pay for public schools this year. Ask yourself if you think that increase to your tax bill is modest and gradual. Because it’s nothing compared to how this minimum wage increase will impact our small employers.) And scaled back? This is the biggest fraud of all. The original plan backed by Zuckerman and company called for $15 an hour in four years. Their idea of “scaled back” is to go half the distance in half the time. Then they’ll take the other half. They have said as much on the House floor! It’s no compromise at all, just accounting and political smoke and mirrors. Don’t be fooled.
What Zuckerman and his colleagues don’t understand, or don’t care about, is the fact that government cannot give to anyone without taking away from someone else first. So, for example, by mandating a higher wage for minimum wage earning childcare workers, giving them a roughly $5,000 a year raise, Zuckerman is taking that money away from young parents who need childcare. By giving a raise to minimum wage healthcare workers, Zuckerman is taking $87 million away from senior citizens who require healthcare services through Medicaid. And, not to mention that after you factor in the increased taxes these low wage workers would pay on a higher income and the loss of benefits due to pricing out of qualifying for things like childcare subsidies, the workers Zuckerman ostensibly wants to help, wouldn’t end up with much more, and in many cases will wind up with less. Given the economic shockwave this would create, it becomes a lose/lose proposition.
Vermont Republicans want people to earn more money too. The best way to do this is to grow the economy, generating more wealth and opportunity for everybody, and to let people keep more of what they earn rather than taxing us all to death. And, if we really need to get more dollars into the pockets of low income workers in the short term, a better way to do so than the minimum wage would be to simply increase the earned income tax credit. This would put more money in pockets without triggering a loss of benefits due to the “benefits cliff” or creating perverse incentives for employers to cut workers hours, benefits, or jobs to meet budgets. The 43 Republicans in the House made this recommendation, but it sadly fell on the deaf ears of over one hundred Democrats/Progressives.
Zuckerman finishes his appeal by noting: “I have been fighting for legislation that would lift up working families since I was first elected in 1997.” Over that time he has had large majorities, even super-majorities, of Democrats and Progressives in the legislature to make that happen, as well as Democratic governors, and currently every statewide and federal office holder. So, big question for the voters: how’s this working out? Are you feeling lifted up? Or are you feeling beaten down by what David Zuckerman and his colleagues have done to you over the past 23 years?