Douglas proposes Act 60 prebate changes

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(Host) Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Douglas is backing an Act 60 Reform plan that would sharply curtail the number of people who would qualify for tax prebates under the law. Democrat Doug Racine strongly opposes the plan.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Throughout this campaign, GOP gubernatorial candidate Jim Douglas has said that reforming Act 60 is one of his top priorities. Douglas has not offered a specific plan to do this but he says a proposal that passed the House last winter represents “a good start.”

That plan boosted the statewide property tax rate to roughly $1.30 to increase the state block grant to $7,000 per student. The bill also eliminated the sharing pool of Act 60 unless a community spends more than 50% above the state block grant level or roughly $10,000 per student.

Douglas wants to reduce local spending on education and he says an effective way to accomplish this goal is to significantly cut the number of households that quality for the Act 60 prebate. Prebates are currently available for households with incomes of less than $80,000. Douglas would reduce the income level to $47,000:

(Douglas) “It certainly disconnects people from the consequences of their vote. There’s less of a disincentive to increase spending when many Vermonters understand that their property tax burden will be sensitized when they complete their income tax return. I think that, although an interesting and helpful feature, it’s gone too far.”

(Kinzel) Racine says it’s critical to maintain the income sensitive provision so that many people pay their school taxes based on their ability to pay and Racine says Douglas’ plan would adversely affect tens of thousands of Vermonters:

(Racine) “And to retreat on that will mean a big property tax increase for a lot of Vermonters. So I find it somewhat startling that while he’s out there talking about the problems with the property tax – how the property tax has gone up in a lot of communities – he’s talking about increasing a lot of Vermonters’ property taxes by taking away the income sensitivity that they get now.”

(Kinzel) Independent candidate Con Hogan says he wants to reduce educational costs by cutting administrative expenses and by introducing school choice to all students.

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

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