Douglas and lawmakers at odds over property tax

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(Host) A major disagreement has developed between Governor Jim Douglas and a group of Republican lawmakers who want to repeal the statewide property tax of Act 60.

The legislators want to shift most of the burden of the property tax over to other broad based taxes – Douglas says he strongly opposes the idea.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Earlier this week, a group of 65 legislative candidates, virtually all of them Republicans, called on the 2007 Legislature to repeal Vermont’s educational statewide property tax.

The group says property tax burdens for many Vermonters are increasing out of control and they want to substitute other broad based taxes to raise funds for education. They say all options should be discussed and they acknowledge that increasing the income tax or expanding the base of the sales tax are two possible solutions.

Douglas says he appreciates the work that the group has done to raise public awareness about this issue but he’s not going to support any efforts to shift property tax burdens to other state taxes.

(Douglas) “We don’t need to shift it to another tax. We tried that a couple of years ago when we raised the sales tax in Act 68 and what happened, well it worked briefly. It provided some relief to most of our communities for a year or two. But now we have a higher sales tax and a higher property tax.”

(Kinzel) Hartland Rep. Steve Adams is one of the organizers of the repeal movement. He says he’s not discouraged by the governor’s comments and he plans to proceed with this initiative.

(Adams) “He certainly has his opinions on those issues and I respect them, but I think that every option should be explored. I think that any decision that’s made should be made by 180 legislators in the Statehouse.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says the best short-term solution to the property tax problem is the imposition of a
3 % cap on local school budgets.

(Douglas) “I really think the property tax cap is an idea that can be implemented without any concern about the discussion that legislators are advancing on the issue of which tax to impose.”

(Kinzel) Rep. Adams says a cap could be part of a final package on property tax reform but he thinks it will have little impact by itself.

(Adams) “That’s tinkering. I think that Vermonters are not looking for a $50 tax reduction on their property tax bill. They’re looking for their tax bills to be cut in half. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t address the bottom line of reducing taxes.”

(Kinzel) House Speaker Gaye Symington says she expects property tax reform to be one of the top issues of the 2007 session. She says her goal is to expand the number of Vermonters who pay their property taxes based on their income rather than on the value of their property.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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