Lt. Governor candidates differ on property tax solutions

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(Host) The leading candidates for Lt. Governor all say that property tax reform is a top priority in their campaigns. But the candidates have very different solutions to the issue.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) One of the most controversial proposals to limit future property tax increases is Governor Jim Douglas’s plan to impose a 3 % cap on local education spending. Under this plan, towns could spend above the cap if at least 60% of voters support the higher amount.

Republican incumbent Brian Dubie says the plan has a lot of merit.

(Dubie) “I don’t think a cap in itself is going to necessarily be the final answer on this question. The reasons I support the cap is that it is a reasonable first step to a conversation.”

(Kinzel) Democratic Matt Dunne says he opposes the cap because he thinks some schools face costs that are beyond their control and the imposition of a cap will hurt the quality of education.

(Dunne) “I think it fits into the category that for every complex problem that there’s a simple solution and it’s wrong. A cap on property taxes would not be the way to solve the increasing cost of education.”

(Kinzel) Progressive Marvin Malek also opposes a cap on local spending:

(Malek) “For the governor to say we should just cap spending without having a single proposal on how to do that when there are several proposals that could be useful I think is fairly unimportant and it’s not useful public policy.”

(Kinzel) A group of 65 mostly Republican lawmakers is calling for the repeal of Vermont’s statewide property tax for education.

Republican Brian Dubie says he’s sympathetic to their concerns. He thinks voters who qualify for the income sensitive provisions of Act 68 are disconnected from the full impact of higher school budgets.

(Dubie) “We need a education finance system that is sustainable where people will feel an outcome for a vote for increased spending so there’s some linkage there”.

(Kinzel) Democrat Matt Dunne wants to expand income sensitivity to allow more people to pay their school taxes based on their income and not the value of their property.

(Dunne) “I also believe that as incomes that are necessary in order to support a family in Vermont go up that we need to increase the amount of income sensitivity that’s available. And I do believe that that is the fairest way to pay for education.”

(Kinzel) The Vermont League of Cities and Towns wants to shift tax burdens from the property tax to the income tax. They say a 1 1/2 % income tax surcharge could help reduce the statewide property tax by more than 60%.

Progressive Marvin Malek supports this approach.

(Malek) “You can use progressive forms of taxation and replace a good portion of the property tax burden. I would even propose up to 50 % of the current property tax burden be replaced in a way I just described.”

(Kinzel) Malek says he also supports eliminating the state’s exemption for capital gains taxes as a way to generate more money for education.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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