• The good, the bad and the ugly
    March 18,2013

    The legislative session is once again riddled with good, bad and ugly.

    The scramble to session’s end has kicked up a notch.

    Holding true to form, lawmakers find taxes, employer mandates and renewables good. Fuels, employers and sugar are bad. The process of balancing their wish list with the population’s ability to pay is downright ugly.

    Along the road to health care affordability are sugar taxes and claims processing fees. These new taxes could fund the operation of the exchange or additional subsidies for VHAP and Catamount enrollees.

    Making health care affordable by raising new taxes and throwing them in the health care bucket wasn’t part of the original sales pitch. Tag these “ugly.”

    Tax fuels for weatherization and/or for direct support of renewables and/or to reduce the price for low-income Vermonters. Oh, yes, and increase the gasoline tax for the highway fund. Obviously, there is no limit to the taxes that can be laid on “bad” fossil fuels. The fact that every Vermont family will pay these hidden taxes gets lost in the shuffle.

    Maybe folks will just blame those nasty oil companies. On the other hand, they may just skip over to New Hampshire where those same oil companies are less nasty because each gallon is taxed about 10 cents less.

    Those bad employers who don’t provide paid sick leave can either become responsible voluntarily or by state edict, if proposed legislation is enacted.

    Although unionization of day care has been rebuffed in committee, keep an eye out. It may pop up attached to something else at any time.

    “Free” preschool enrollment may become a cost shift to the education fund. The statewide education tax is only up 5 cents this year with another 5 or 6 cents projected next year. How “free” can it get?

    Credit the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee with a novel approach: It swiped its funding from an existing tax and set up a fight for the dollars with other programs. May the better program win.

    Survival of the fittest — or most favored — is better than simply funding everything.

    Without a very long scorecard, it’s hard to keep track of all the things being considered for new or increased taxes. Apologies for those ignored.

    Hang on for the exciting conclusion.

    One person’s “good” is another person’s “bad,” and the process is always ugly.

    George Malek is executive director of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce.

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