Republican lawmakers look to repeal Act 60

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(Host) A group of Republican lawmakers is calling for the repeal of Act 60. They say their goal is to shift educational tax burdens from the statewide property tax to other broad based taxes.

House Speaker Gaye Symington is concerned that such an approach would raise tax burdens on many middle income families. She says she wants to look at proposals that will reduce property taxes for all Vermonters.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The five Republican lawmakers who launched the repeal Act 60 movement 3 weeks ago say their plan is being enthusiastically received in many parts of the state.

They now count 65 legislative candidates who have pledged to repeal Act 60 – the group says the issue is not partisan but there are no Democrats on their list.

Hartland Rep. Steve Adams says people who aren’t covered by the income sensitive provisions of Act 60 are facing unfair tax increases as property values rise more than 10% a year.

Under income sensitivity, families with household incomes of less than $100,000 dollars pay their school taxes based on their income not the value of their property. This provision applies to a house and up to two acres of land.

Adams says income sensitivity has an urban bias with its two acre restriction and he argues that doesn’t help many people in rural parts of Vermont who own more land. He also notes that the state’s business community has to pay the full statewide non-residential property tax rate.

Adams says his group wants to shift burdens from the statewide property tax to broad based taxes:

(Adams) “Well the options are small but I think everything is on the table whether it’s an income tax whether it’s an expansion of the sales tax. I mean, I’m not talking about going to 8% or 7%. I’m talking about expanding sales tax to services. Perhaps those are things that we 180 people who work in this building from January to May have to look at and address.”

(Kinzel) The Vermont League of Cities and Towns is backing a plan that would reduce the statewide property tax rate by two thirds by imposing a 1 % income tax surcharge.

House Speaker Gaye Symington says she’s willing to consider this plan and other alternative school funding proposals but she says she’ll strongly oppose efforts to place greater tax burdens on middle income Vermonters:

(Symington) “There’s a smokescreen going on here. The real agenda is lowering the property tax burden for those who can afford 2nd homes and for businesses at the expense of Vermonters, who are just trying to get by. And my interest is lowering property tax burdens for all Vermonters, not just those who can afford 2nd homes.”

(Kinzel) The Repeal Act 60 group wants Speaker Symington to appoint a special House committee in January to study ways to reform school financing however Symington doesn’t support this approach.

If she’s re-elected Speaker in January, Symington says it makes more sense for the Ways and Means committee to study tax policies while the Education committee reviews cost control initiatives.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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