As Governor Scott stated regarding H315 as he let it go into law without his signature, it started out as a smart spending bill totaling $62 million targeted at urgent pandemic related needs such as business recovery grants, housing and foreclosure prevention, and mental health services. Among the negatives that were added were a tax on PPP loans that were meant to keep businesses afloat against the guidance of the federal government and our own Senator Leahy. These loans/grants didn’t make businesses whole, they simply lessened the blow. Businesses that applied for PPP funds did so believing that they would not be taxed. This is horrible public policy and an unfortunate money grab from hardworking Vermonters in a time when the state has a $300 million excess in general fund and over a billion dollars in federal aid still left.
S53, an act relating to exempting feminine hygiene products from the Vermont Sales and Use Tax started out as a good bill with a purpose that had universal support. Unfortunately, after the bill came to the House from the Senate it got loaded with tax hikes. This type of “Christmas Tree” activity is all too common in Washington but I thought Vermont was above such terrible legislative processes. In one of the worst cases of political gamesmanship that I have seen, the majority slipped in an income tax exemption on a paltry amount of $10,000 in retirement for our retired service members (this amounts to only around $300 in tax savings). We attempted to do the right thing with an amendment exempting the first $30,000 but that amendment was soundly defeated by the majority party. All but one member of the Franklin County delegation voted for this amendment to truly honor our military retirees and to keep more of them from relocating to more affordable states. The Governor and Lt Governor have both come out in support of a FULL exemption. Another important piece of this puzzle is that for years bills have been introduced for this exemption and Governor Scott has made it a priority since taking office, yet it was never taken up for debate until a token amount could be slipped into a bill greatly increasing taxes. The Cloud Tax will affect most Vermonters and will be costly for a lot. Think of all the things many of us do with the cloud whether its tax software or simply storage for our phones. There are a mixture of increases and potential decreases in corporate taxes that look to lean more heavily on the side of increase overall. This bill should have been three unique bills. This would have been in line with good legislative policy but as we increasingly see, Vermont is becoming more like Washington when it should be the other way around.
Overall, this session we have seen significant tax increases and more burdens for hard working Vermonters and businesses to endure. When I listen to young people they overwhelmingly point to Vermont’s high cost of living and what many of them feel is too much government in their lives. So many say they are considering leaving the state or would if they could afford to. I know that not everyone feels the same but for these Vermonters the struggle is real, and their voices should matter.
It continues to be an honor to serve the people of Bakersfield, Fairfield, and Fletcher as your state representative. I will continue to work in a thoughtful and honest way toward a more affordable and welcoming Vermont for all. I work for you the people, not lobbyists or activists. Please contact me at email@example.com with questions or concerns. Thank you all and enjoy the coming week.
Rep. James Gregoire