Gov. Peter Shumlin’s budget proposal – which includes more than $44 million in cuts to human services – has drawn fire from advocates for low-income Vermonters, and at least a couple pieces of tax-raising legislation aimed at eliminating the need for the reductions.
The issue of raising taxes, of course, is a hot one in Montpelier. So it didn’t go unnoticed when Shumlin said during a press conference Wednesday that House and Senate leadership “mutter to me every day that we’ve got to raise taxes, it’s only way out. You can bet that chorus is going to grow as we get closer to passing a budget.”
House and Senate leadership on the record supporting tax increases? That would be big news, if it was true. Shumlin said he misspoke though. What he meant to say was that House Speaker Shap Smith and Senate President John Campbell have conveyed to him that “there are some members of the Legislature who are going to be proposing raising taxes as way to balance the budget.”
“Leadership is not proposing that,” Shumlin clarified.
Sen. Anthony Pollina is one of those members proposing tax increases. Legislation sponsored by the Washington County Democrat would assess a surcharge on the incomes of people making more than $250,000 annually. Pollina says the rich can afford it, given the money they’ll save as a result of the continuation of the Bush tax cuts.
Shumlin kind of agrees with him, though he’s rejected out-of-hand Pollina’s proposal. Shumlin said he too supports the discontinuation of the Bush-era tax cuts, but only if the federal government takes the lead.
Going it alone, Shumlin said, would compel the state’s richest residents to move to New Hampshire, or Florida, or another state that didn’t assess the income-tax surcharge.
“The federal government can do things Vermont can’t, like raise income taxes on the wealthiest Americans who got a huge income-tax cut when Bush was president,” Shumlin said. “We can’t do that in Vermont. We have to complete with other states.”