February 27, 2008
Measure would be a step backwards for over-taxed Vermonters
Montpelier, Vt. – The Douglas administration is opposing an effort by House Democrats to undo an education property tax containment plan the Legislature approved just 9 months ago and reiterating the Governor’s call for additional property tax relief this year.
Last year, the House, Senate and Governor reached a compromise on a bill, known as Act 82, to contain education cost increases and help provide property tax relief. In particular, the bill contained the “2-vote” provision enhancing the power of local voters to contain education costs. The measure, sponsored by a bipartisan group of veteran lawmakers, gives voters the power to approve or reject education spending that exceeds inflation plus one percent. The Senate voted 23 to 4 in favor of the bill. The House passed Act 82 by a vote of 70 to 60.
Secretary of Administration Mike Smith said Vermonters agree that education cost containment is an essential component of property tax relief. “While the ‘2-vote’ system did not go as far as the Governor wanted to curb rising education costs, all parties, through thoughtful negotiation, reached a compromise culminating the passage of Act 82,” Smith said in a letter to Speaker of the House Gaye Symington.
Smith went on to note that Act 82 “represents both meaningful progress on curbing education costs, as well as a good example of the value of bipartisan compromise.”
Now, less than a year after passage and without a single vote even cast using the new cost containment system, the House is poised to take the “2-vote” system away from local voters.
“It seems the House is having an extreme case of buyer’s remorse, fueled by vehement opposition to this commonsense cost containment measure from special interest groups with little appreciation for Vermont’s oppressive tax burden,” Smith said. “Walking away from the concerns of property taxpayers in favor of accommodating special interests is not the direction the State of Vermont should be heading.”
Act 82 was an important step in the right direction – providing meaningful property tax relief for Vermonters when it takes effect in 2010 – but there is still more to do, Smith said. “Adding insult to injury, while the Legislature focuses on repealing this cost containment provision, they have no plans to provide relief to Vermonters whose property tax bills will rise at more than 7 next year alone.”
Smith said the Speaker’s decision to turn away from the bi-partisan agreement is “truly disappointing.”
The Governor opposes repeal of the ‘2-vote’ system. The Senate too seems unlikely to support the change.
“In the face of Vermont’s excessive tax burden, the ‘2 vote’ system offers property taxpayers an important helping hand. (Speaker Symington’s) unraveling of the progress we made together last session can only result in unfortunate consequences for Vermont’s property taxpayers,” Smith concluded.
Source: Office of the Governor
Last Updated at: February 27, 2008 16:10:12