Right now we are hearing a lot about a Government shutdown in Montpelier. This argument is being forwarded to make a political argument but not one of reality as last year we brought the session and budget to a close in the last 10 days of June. Now, I do agree the quicker we can come to a solution the better off all Vermonters are. A resolution still looks to be a couple of weeks away.
On Tuesday of this week the House passed H. 13 an attempt to bring the budget discussion to an end but it still leaves in a property tax increase for non-residential property taxes. Many of us, but not yet the majority of legislators, believe that when there is a surplus – including a new revenue upgrade from May of $11 million – it should be returned to the taxpayers. A revenue upgrade means that the number of actual tax revenue coming in is more than projections used to build the current budget. This is good news – it means incomes and economic activity are up. It also means that we have resources needed to make sure we don’t need to raise taxes.
There where two amendments to H. 13 that I supported, one by Rep. Scott Beck from St. Johnsbury and another by Rep. Cynthia Browning from Arlington. For those who don’t like to use “one-time” surplus money for ongoing expenditures – the Browning Amendment should have alleviated their concern because the surplus money was to be used to pay for the Act 46 “incentive” money which would have taken care of the need to raise property taxes this year and would spent the money on an expenditure that will no longer be an obligation of the Ed Fund in a few years.
None of these approaches get us to a long-term solution with education spending or making property taxes affordable. The legislature and the administration need to come together after the election and figure out how we can better connect local voters who vote for their school budgets in the spring with the associated property taxes needed to support those budgets. I believe if and when we can find that solution local voters will be better at finding a balance between education spending and property taxes than the legislature in Montpelier.