Public Assets Institute > Policy Areas > Vermont Budget > Roads Aren’t the Only Smart Investments

Roads Aren’t the Only Smart Investments

The governor and legislative leaders announced a deal this week that will mean no new taxes beyond the gas tax for the coming year. While a lot of people—legislators included—welcome the agreement as a sign that the session is nearing a close, it also ends, at least for this year, the Legislature’s efforts to push for the smart investments that are needed to move Vermont forward.

For all of the governor’s claims about his consistent opposition to taxes, he’s really been all over the place. One minute he says there is absolutely no capacity for Vermonters to pay another penny in taxes. Then he gives a perfectly cogent, sensible explanation for why it is necessary to increase the gas tax to take care of Vermont’s crumbling roads and bridges. He’s right that Vermonters would rather not pay higher taxes. He’s also right that they know they have to do it to maintain our roads and bridges and protect the investments we’ve already made. But that pokes a big hole in his claim about Vermonters having no more tax capacity. The gas tax comes out of the same pocket Vermonters use pay their other taxes.

Legislative leaders have been more realistic this year—and more consistent. They have recognized that it is just as important to make smart investments in Vermont families and children as it is to make investments in the transportation system. Both the House and Senate made tough but responsible decisions—despite the governor’s anti-tax rhetoric—to raise additional revenue needed to help achieve the prosperity that Vermonters want for their state.

An unexpected jump in tax collections in April created an opportunity to avert a showdown between the governor and the Legislature over further tax increases. The additional revenue won’t cover everything. Vermont still needs to find money to expand the availability of quality child care for low- and moderate-income families, which is at least as important as fixing our crumbling roads and bridges. But it now appears that’s a battle to be left for another day.

Still, legislative leaders deserve credit for making an important shift in the public debate this year. It’s easy to be against taxes. It’s harder to get people to focus on the future and decide what kind of state they want in the next five or 15 or 25 years. This session, legislative leaders starting talking about the need to invest in Vermont’s future the way the governor talks about the need to invest in road and bridges.

Austerity isn’t going to bring Vermonters prosperity any more than belt-tightening will fill potholes.

Posted by Jack Hoffman on May 10, 2013 at 1:54 pm

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