Governor throws cold water on bills with new fees and taxes

By Colin Meyn – VTDigger

Mar 20 2018

Phil Scott told lawmakers on Tuesday that he is dead serious about his pledge not to impose any new taxes or fees on Vermonters, targeting 15 bills that he said won’t get his approval until they are adjusted accordingly.

In a letter to legislative leaders, Scott listed laws currently moving through the Statehouse that he said would raise the cost of living or doing business in the state, and challenged legislators to make necessary changes to get rid of the expenses if they wanted him on board.

“My request is simple: let’s work together to find ways for many of the proposals to advance, while respecting the need to provide Vermonters with another year of relief that begins to moderate the burden of taxes and fees,” he wrote.

The letter goes on to list some “examples of bills containing new or higher taxes, fees and expenses I cannot support.”

Some of his objections relate to the broad impact the bill would have on the state’s economy — such as a minimum wage law that the governor says will increase the cost of production — while others are focused on specific fees or taxes that would be created by the bills.

The laws range from acts proposing a carbon tax, the simplification of government for small businesses and holding companies liable for toxic pollution (A full list of the bills cited in the governor’s memo, and the expenses he wants to see eliminated, is below).

In a couple instances, the governor strongly indicates that the bills fundamentally contradict his spending-averse and pro-business policies.

He writes that a toxic pollution bill, “Increases the cost of liability insurance on manufacturers to the point of making the cost and availability a potentially insurmountable barrier to doing business in Vermont.”

Describing his opposition to a bill that would look into approaches to greenhouse gas reduction, he writes that it “Allocates scarce state resources to study a carbon tax — a policy Vermonters cannot afford, and I will not support on the state level under any circumstance.”

But Scott says that he hopes to find common ground on “many” of the bills.
“Again, aside from these new or higher taxes and fees, many of these bills contain provisions I could support,” the letter says.

Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington, said he was unsurprised by the letter, and hoped that legislators would push back.

“Sometimes if you want pro-growth policies you have to be willing to make investments in order to do the right thing,” he said. “I think that a smart approach would be to evaluate each one on its merits instead of making a blanket restriction on any revenues that need to be raised.”

Pollina said the letter would likely have an impact on legislative decisions over the coming weeks, though he hoped that lawmakers would prioritize making the best policy for Vermonters rather than pleasing the governor.

“I think that unfortunately lot of people in the Legislature are afraid to stand up to the governor on these kind of things,” he said. “So I think it may have an impact, yes, but I would hope not.”