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Public Assets Institute, PO Box 942, Montpelier, Vermont 05601.

Public Assets Institute

Update October 2010

In this issue:
-- Education spending: What's true?
-- You say my income taxes aren't the highest?
-- Money or people?
-- So where are the jobs?
-- Recommitting to Vermont: Seizing the Opportunity

Education spending: What's true?
Given the rhetoric of the past few years, Vermonters probably will be surprised to learn that education spending in neither "skyrocketing" nor "out of control." As measured against the overall state economy, spending on schools has been remarkably stable since the early 1990s, through the reforms contained in Act 60 and Act 68. For more on this and other commonly overlooked and misrepresented facts about education funding in Vermont, check out "Vermont Education Spending: The Facts."

You say my income taxes aren't the highest?
There are many ways to measure and compare taxes. By some measures, taxes in Vermont appear higher than elsewhere. By others, the typical Vermont family's tax bill is about average for the country. We looked at how Vermont's personal income tax stacks up against the other 49 states'. This report tells a different story than what you've been hearing.

Money or people?
Since the end of the last major recession in the early 1990s, Montpelier has been "managing to the money." During this Great Recession that has meant cutting services to fit diminished revenues, rather than assessing Vermonters' increased need first, then figuring out how to pay for it. Now all the less-painful cuts have been made, federal help has ceased—and choices loom. Paul Cillo has more to say at our blog, Back of the Envelope.

So where are the jobs?
Tax-cut advocates promise that lower tax bills for businesses and the wealthy translate into new jobs. Considering Vermont's experience over the last two decades, you might question that equation. We did. So we compared job creation in the 1990s, a decade ushered in by a recession and tax increases, with the 2000s, which also started with a recession but also saw big federal tax cuts. Our findings? Read September's Monthly Jobs Report. While you're there, check out October's.

Recommitting to Vermont:
Seizing the Opportunity

Vermont has undergone a subtle shift over the last couple decades. Money has begun to trump people in our public policy choices. More and more, we hear political leaders say we can't afford to care for our neighbors as we did in the past or to give our kids a good education when the economy collapses. Even ostensibly liberal leaders suggest it may be time to change the social contract between government and citizens.

In response to this shift, our 2010 fall conference explored opportunities for regaining Vermont's commitment to putting people first. As we learned from economist Jeffrey Thompson, of the Political Economy Research Institute, investing in people—by rebuilding the public infrastructure and expanding education—also produces a more vibrant, prosperous economy.

Conference workshops focused on three crucial areas: education funding and student performance, strengthening state revenues, and building economic security for the many Vermonters who have not shared in the gains of the last 30 years. Take a look at the conference's videos and summary documents.

Public Assets Institute is funded by grants and donations. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to support our work.

Fact: Homelessness has increased 22 percent since 2008. The number of Vermont's homeless is now greater than the population of East Montpelier.

Data sources: Statewide Homeless Report, U.S. Census

bringing fiscal data home

Income-based School Tax Map
To calculate their school taxes, many Vermonters have a choice. For the taxes on their primary residence and up to two acres of land, they can pay either a percentage of household income or a property tax based on the school district's tax rate. Because the rates are determined by how much the community votes to spend on its schools, any two towns that spend the same per pupil have the same tax rates.

Want to know your town's income tax rate or that of another town? Go to our new interactive map. Property tax rates are at the Vermont Tax Dept. website.

Blue Ribbon Tax Commission
November 23, 2010
9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Check the website for location
and more information.

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Public Assets Institute, PO Box 942, Montpelier, Vermont 05601.