Bill Places One-Year Moratorium On Current Use Program

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(Host) The House has given preliminary approval to a bill that’s viewed as the first effort to reduce spending in the 2011 fiscal year. It’s part of the Legislature’s work to eliminate a projected $150 million budget gap.

The legislation places a one year moratorium on new applications under the state’s current use law.

The program allows participants to pay property taxes based only on the value of their land for its farm or forestry use – instead of the potential development value.

In return, the enrollees agree not to develop their land unless they pay a special penalty.

Woodstock Representative Alison Clarkson says the new moratorium will reduce costs by roughly $1.6 million dollars in next year’s budget:

(Clarkson) "It’s been in the past to reasonable effect. it’s nothing we wanted to do but we were having to balance in Ways and Means affecting a few hundred people versus affecting the 12,500 people that are in current use and who are our farmers and foresters, who are having one the most brutal economic years they’ve ever had."

(Host) Clarkson says the legislation also includes some measures to tighten up the enforcement provisions of the program.

(Clarkson) "We were looking to maintain the integrity of the programming, hopefully increasing compliance, strengthening it and making it more sustainable because this program is under fire all the time in the Statehouse and we are only wanting to improve it at every turn if we can."

(Host) The measure will come up for final approval in the House on Wednesday.

The current use program is the topic of discussion on Vermont Edition today at noon.

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