by Peter Freyne
In politics people say a lot of wild things, but, still, you’ve got to admire their moxie sometimes. Yesterday, five veteran GOP members of the Vermont House held a Statehouse presser (forgot to invite yours truly otherwise we’d have a photo!), to announce their call to END the statewide property tax that pays for public schools. The Fearless Five Republican Reps are:
Rick Hube of Londonderry,
Steve Adams of Hartland
Rich Westman of Cambridge,
Joe Krawczyk of Bennington
Joyce Errecart of Shelburne.
According to their press release: “Wherever we go across the state, we hear one message, loud and clear, Vermonters are feeling pain. They are overtaxed and asking for help,” said Errecart, a former state tax commissioner.
“But the current system and the statewide property tax that drives it are no longer fixable. We can’t keep slapping Band-aids on a sucking chest wound. We have to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch.”
To do that, the five plan to introduce a bill in January that would repeal the entire school funding apparatus, including the statewide property tax, effective July 1, 2009. They said they are not at this time proposing alternatives, and stressed their proposal did not advocate abolishing property taxes altogether, only the statewide levy.
“We feel confident that with two full sessions, we will be able to develop a new educational funding model that is both fair and affordable and returns to our towns and cities control over their own destinies that has been stripped away by state government in Montpelier,” Westman said.
You’ve got to check out their brand new Repeal & Revolt website!
In Dave Gram's AP story, Bill Lofy, Vermont Democratic spokesman, called the GOP proposal a "publicity stunt," saying it "does nothing to bring Vermonters together to address rising property taxes, but instead pits Vermonters against one another."
House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, made similar complaints.
So let’s see if we’ve got this straight. Back in 1997, the Vermont Supreme Court in the Brigham decision ended a very uneven playing field. It was a rich town - poor town landscape. And while property poor towns struggled and strained under high tax-rates to educate their kids, the property rich towns, so-called gold towns like Stowe etc. skated along with low tax rates and well-funded public schools.
The Supremes wrote in Brigham v. State of Vermont:
"Children who live in property-poor districts and children who live in property-rich districts should be afforded a substantially equal opportunity to have access to similar educational revenues. Thus, as other state courts have done, we hold only that to fulfill its constitutional obligation the State must ensure substantial equality of educational opportunity throughout Vermont."
The result was Act 60 since “improved” by Act 68. Income sensitivity plays a role in seeking fairness.
But still, we are talking taxes and NOBODY likes to pay taxes, right?
The only problem for the Fearless Five is passing the “straight-face” test.
If you want to launch a political PR effort six weeks before the November Election calling for the repeal of a tax you don’t like, common decency requires that you at least mention a few of the taxes you’d consider replacing the current statewide property tax with.
After all, it’ll leave behind a $1 billion-plus hole. And money does not grow on trees, not even in Vermont.
Maybe they should have set their sights lower - just end the tax on beer?
P.S. No shortage of weirdness this week, folks. How about this statement from Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richie Tarrant - who reports pumping over $6 million of his IDX fortune into a race aganst Rep. Bernie Sanders that has so far been a public embarassment...for Richie Rich. He's set the bar on TV commercials. Set it at its lowest level in Vermont history.
Statement from Rich Tarrant on the Signing of California’s Global Warming Initiative
“I want to congratulate the people of California for taking a bold step forward in the fight to reduce global warming.
“Today, Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill into law that imposes the nation’s first cap on greenhouse gas emissions. It’s now time for the federal government to follow California and take a leading role in the fight to reduce climate change worldwide. We owe it to our children and grandchildren.”
Word is Richie and Arnold have something in common media-consultant-wise. Maybe Richie can get "The Terminator" to come to Vermont to campaign for him?
Big crowd for sure, eh?