Towns urge lawmakers against shifting tax burden

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(Host) Several hundred local officials converged on the Statehouse on Wednesday to urge lawmakers not to shift the burden of paying for state programs to local property taxpayers.

Charles Lusk, a select board member in Stowe, is on the board of directors of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns. Lusk says his members are concerned that the Douglas administration will reduce spending on a variety of programs that affect local communities, in order to help balance the state’s Medicaid deficit – a deficit the administration says will grow to nearly $80 million next year if no action is taken now:

(Lusk) “That’s got to made up somewhere. It’s either going to be increased taxes, which we’re not hearing very much about, or it’s going to be redistribution of burden. And what we’re afraid of is that one of the ways of redistributing the burden will be simply to require that the towns raise more money locally through – again, I reiterate – through our almost sole funding mechanism, which is the property tax.”

(Host) Lusk says the VLCT is also backing legislation that would allow any town in the state to impose a local option tax if voters in that community vote in favor of the plan.

Currently, this option is limited to several dozen towns hit hardest by the passage of Act 60. Towns that use this option are required to share some of their new revenue with the state:

(Lusk) “We are getting increasingly cash strapped because we’ve got our property taxes really as high as local voters are prepared to sustain them and that we really do need another funding source.”

(Host) The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to study the local option tax bill in the next few weeks.

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