US Senate tax plan is a bad deal for most Vermonters

Posted by Stephanie Yu on November 14, 2017 at 9:29 am | Comments (0)

Income inequality is already growing in Vermont. And if Congress has its way on tax reform, that problem will get worse.

Analysis released yesterday by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows that, like the House plan from earlier this month, the newly released U.S. Senate’s tax plan helps Vermonters at the top the most.

Nationally, the plan is heavily tilted in favor of upper-income households and profitable corporations.  The top 1 percent gets around one-fourth of the total tax cuts and the top 5 percent receive half of the tax cuts. In Vermont, 60 percent of the benefits go to the top 20 percent of taxpayers.

Under the Senate plan, the top 1 percent of Vermont taxpayers would on average get a tax cut of $21,910, growing to $29,820 by 2027. Meanwhile, the bottom 20 percent of taxpayers would save an average of $100 in 2019 and $200 in 2027.

Backwards budgeting

Posted by Jack Hoffman on November 2, 2017 at 4:05 pm | * Comments (1)

Gov. Phil Scott sets out some priorities in the fiscal 2019 State Budget Overview released Thursday. He doesn’t spell out goals per se; they’re more like areas of concern. Still, the budget process just seems backwards, especially when the stated goal of the budget, at least according to statute, is to address the needs of Vermonters.

The Budget Overview says the administration will measure progress by: “Growing the Economy,” “Making Vermont More Affordable,” and “Protecting the Vulnerable.” These are laudable goals, but there are no defined targets. For example, one metric is “[p]ercent of population living below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).” But there’s no indication of what the percentage ought to be or what might be done to reduce poverty. “Wage growth—by region” is another metric, but again, no goal, no 5-year target.

Timing is everything

Posted by Stephanie Yu on October 10, 2017 at 4:07 pm | Comments Off on Timing is everything

It’s understandable. The Fight for 15 has a certain alliterative ring to it. But ultimately, the number itself matters less than the timing.

The debate about raising the minimum wage in Vermont has clearly been influenced by the national push for a $15 an hour minimum wage and actions taken in other states. But when will Vermont get to $15? That is the critical question in this discussion.

The current $10 minimum wage is slated to go to $10.50 next year and grow with inflation after that. It would reach $15 by about 2034.

The cost of inaction

Posted by Stephanie Yu on October 3, 2017 at 10:15 am | * Comments (4)

Since July, the Minimum Wage Study Committee has spent a lot of time discussing the possible effects of raising the minimum wage.

Their time might be better spent discussing the effects of not raising it.

Holly Morehouse to Receive the 2017 Con Hogan Award

Posted by Paul Cillo on September 27, 2017 at 9:50 am | Comments Off on Holly Morehouse to Receive the 2017 Con Hogan Award

The Vermont Community Foundation and the organizing committee for the Con Hogan Award for Creative, Entrepreneurial, Community Leadership are pleased to announce that Holly Morehouse, Executive Director of Vermont Afterschool, Inc., will be honored with this year’s award.

The $15,000 award, to be used however the recipient chooses, will be presented to Morehouse at a reception on October 4th at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier.

Poverty-fighting programs work

Posted by Jack Hoffman on September 22, 2017 at 10:43 am | Comments Off on Poverty-fighting programs work

Vermont made headlines last week when the U.S. Census released its latest statistics for 2016: We were the only state to show an increase in the poverty rate. That may have been an artifact of the Census survey sample. The poverty rate showed an unusual drop in 2015, and 2016 looks more like a return to normal than a real increase. Read more

Act 60 created new opportunity for kids

Posted by Stephanie Yu on September 7, 2017 at 11:40 am | * Comments (1)

As students across Vermont start the 2017-18 school year it’s worth reflecting on what happened 20 years ago. In 1997 the Vermont Supreme Court’s Brigham decision forced policymakers to develop a more equitable funding system. That system, established by Act 60, created a statewide school tax and gave students from all over the state more equal access to resources and opportunity. Read more

State budget rescissions

Posted by Jack Hoffman on August 24, 2017 at 5:08 pm | * Comments (1)

The governor’s office and the Legislature agreed in mid-August on how to close a $12.6 million budget gap that came to light after the Legislature adjourned its 2017 session.

The gap surfaced last month when economists for the Legislature and the administration lowered their estimate of how much revenue the state can expect to collect this fiscal year. Read more

Speaking with one voice on health care

Posted by Paul Cillo on August 4, 2017 at 1:09 pm | * Comments (1)

Vermont is lucky. Even with divided state government and occasional partisan spats, our leaders on both sides of the aisle can agree that taking health care away from millions of Americans is a bad idea.

At a conference I attended in Boise, Idaho last week, state-level policy leaders from around the country discussed the potential impact of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Read more

It’s the property tax that’s unfair

Posted by Jack Hoffman on August 3, 2017 at 2:25 pm | * Comments (4)

Economist Art Woolf wrote recently that Vermont spends too much on education because taxes are too low for many residents. Woolf was referring specifically to resident homeowners who qualify to pay school taxes as a percentage of their income rather than on the value of their property. According to Woolf, because their income-based taxes are less than their property taxes would be, these homeowners feel like education in Vermont is on sale, so they’re buying more of it.

One problem with Woolf’s hypothesis is that it assumes that the value of a primary residence is a fair and rational indicator of how much each Vermonter should be contributing to the education of our children. It may have been 200 years ago, when the value of a person’s property and possessions was the best measure of his ability to pay. But that isn’t true today, and the system should be brought up to date with today’s economy.