• Malek: Live within means
    May 06,2013

    Families do it. Businesses do it. Government needs to do it.

    The Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce asks the Vermont Legislature to live within budgets that grow no more than adjusting for inflation.

    That was the “Cliff Notes” version of lengthy discussions about taxes in committee and before the full board.

    Legislators are debating whether it’s better to further tax the rich or tax everyone’s soda. Board members had little interest in debating which taxes were least onerous. They identified the culprits as too much spending and too little cutting.

    When a great new program comes along, a fabulous opportunity arises, a tremendous need emerges, the Chamber suggests cutting a tired old program, trimming a lesser need, and carrying on without new revenues.

    It was noted, however, that tax policy has predictable implications: to reduce demand for something, tax it; to increase demand, subsidize it.

    Several directors pointed out that these statements are just as true relative to wealthy residents and employers as they are to sugary drinks and cigarettes. Legislators contend that raising taxes on tobacco products and soft drinks will reduce consumption, but they often don’t apply the same rules to business and income taxes.

    The fact is that employers and high-earners can, and do, consider the cost of doing business and the cost of living in the Green Mountains on a regular basis. With increases in property taxes, fuel taxes, sales taxes, and income taxes all in various stages of consideration, business owners are nervous, and additional pressures loom as health care reform moves forward.

    Area businesses have struggled to succeed through years of economic challenge.

    They look forward to legislators holding the line on spending and taxes so they have a chance to participate in recovery.

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

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