Opponents criticize Pollina tax proposal

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(Host) Anthony Pollina, the Progressive candidate for lieutenant governor, wants lawmakers to reject Governor Howard Dean’s plan to cut the state budget by nearly $40 million. Pollina is proposing a tax on wealthy Vermonters to offset the state’s revenue shortage, and it’s a proposal his opponents dislike.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Over the course of the next ten days, the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee faces some difficult decisions concerning next year’s budget. These decisions include cuts in programs for disabled people, reductions in the state’s pharmaceutical drug programs, less money for several public safety programs including DWI enforcement and cuts in town highway funds.

The cuts are part of a $40 million package proposed by the Dean administration to balance the current fiscal year budget. Anthony Pollina, the Progressive candidate for lieutenant governor, thinks that lawmakers are taking the wrong approach to this issue. Instead of cutting important services, Pollina says the state should be raising taxes, and he’s proposing a small income tax surcharge on the wealthiest 1% of all Vermonters:

(Pollina) “In good times, we gave a tax cut. In bad times, we have to ask people who have significant amounts of disposable income to chip in a little more. These are folks who are still going to be able to send their kids to college, they’re still going to be able to pay for prescription drugs, they’re still going to be able to take a vacation – the things a lot of average Vermonters can’t do. So we have to take a good look at doing that.”

(Kinzel) Democratic candidate Peter Shumlin says Pollina’s plan is irrelevant because the Joint Fiscal Committee doesn’t have the authority to raise taxes and Shumlin says it’s much too soon to consider a tax increase to deal with the state’s budget problems:

(Shumlin) “Based upon where the stock market is, how the economy’s performing, the job layoffs that we’re seeing across the state of Vermont, I think the problems have just begun. So we’ve been very careful to try and manage this budget, balance this budget without raising revenue so that we always have the capacity to do that in the future. But to propose that to the Joint Fiscal Committee now – who doesn’t have the authority to raise revenue – isn’t particularly helpful.”

(Kinzel) Republican candidate Brian Dubie also opposes efforts to increase taxes to deal with the state’s revenue shortfall. Dubie says Vermont’s tax rate is already too high and he’d like to see an independent task force conduct a thorough review of all state programs to see which programs are not providing cost-effective services to Vermonters.

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

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