Douglas Administration wants pledge against tax raise

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(Host) The Douglas Administration wants key Democratic lawmakers to take a pledge against raising taxes.

But Democrats say the request is just a political stunt made in the last weeks of the campaign.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The letter from Administration Secretary Mike Smith says that the economy is getting stronger, and state finances are stable.

He says property taxes are dividing communities, and that second homeowners and businesses realize they pay a larger share of the tax burden.

Smith concludes by asking House Speaker Gaye Symington and Senate President Peter Welch to promise not to raise taxes in the coming fiscal year.

Welch is running for U.S. Congress. He was somewhat bemused by the letter, since he says he thought it was well known he would not be in the state Senate next year.

(Welch) “It’s a political stunt, obviously but it just doesn’t have any relevance to those of us who are not returning to Montpelier.”

(Dillon) Governor Douglas says the tax pledge letter is similar to one his administration would write in a non-campaign year.

(Douglas) “People will perceive what they want. I don’t know why this, the letter would be any different, in an odd number year frankly under the current fiscal and economic circumstances. My responsibility is to present a balanced budget to meet the needs of Vermont through the agencies and programs of state government . And we do not need to raise the tax burden on the people of Vermont. And there are some political candidates who seem to feel differently.”

(Dillon) But Democratic gubernatorial candidate Scudder Parker says the administration’s letter is an attempt to put the Democratically controlled Legislature on the defensive.

(Parker) “It’s just very clearly a political play to the Legislature, trying to put them on the spot. This is about the fact that people with wealth and second homeowners are having too much of the property tax burden shifted to them. That’s what the letter really tries to do, is to say that that’s the crisis in the property tax. And I tell you that Jim Douglas proposed this last January to increase the property tax on working Vermonters.”

(Dillon) Parker says the letter is obviously political, since the governor’s press secretary immediately distributed it to the news media.

And House Speaker Gaye Symington replied to Smith that she would not engage in “gamesmanship” over the tax issue.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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