While lawmakers in Montpelier bicker over the best way to fix the state’s $176 million budget deficit, Vermonters are engaged in an equally painful rite of spring: paying income taxes to keep state government running.
Last year, 304,860 Vermont households, plus 48,000 from out of state, filed income tax returns, according to the Vermont Department of Taxes. Average payments ranged from $87 for households earning between $20,000 to $24,999, to $181,335 for the 292 filers who reported income of $1 million or more.
Where do all the tax dollars go? Seven Days enlisted Public Assets Institute, the budget-savvy think tank based in Montpelier, to help crunch the numbers. Using the 2010-11 adjusted state general fund budget — the one we’re all paying taxes on — PAI’s Jack Hoffman calculated how many cents of each tax dollar go to Vermont’s various programs.
The results were revealing, if not altogether surprising. Public education, Medicaid and corrections eat up most of the tax pie, while recipients such as the arts and court diversion programs are left to fight over the crumbs.
To illustrate the breakdown, imagine a family earning $50,000 that owes $1000 in income tax. Almost $400 goes to “human services” — $200 for Medicaid, $112 for corrections and $84 for the Department for Children and Families, to name just three line items. Public education would get $252; higher ed, $70. Vermont Arts Council and Vermont Symphony Orchestra, meanwhile, would share 50 cents.
Below is the breakdown of how state income tax money gets spent. In most of the 10 categories is a sampling of line items. Some figures have been rounded to the nearest 10th of a cent.
Infographic by Celia Hazard. Click the graphic below to see a full-size version.