Category Archives: Taxes

Feliciano releases tax return

Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Dan Feliciano released his 2012 and 2013 tax returns Tuesday, showing income of $239,796 in 2013 and $174,773 in 2012. He filed jointly with his wife, Carol. Feliciano’s occupation is listed as consultant, while his wife’s is listed as “Greatest Mother.”

The couple paid $23,741 in federal taxes in 2012 and $35,424 in 2013.

Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, who is seeking a third two-year term, has released his 2013 tax return, showing $721,000 in income. He also released a list of his assets, which total more than $10 million. Shumlin did not release his 2012 return and indicated to reporters at an unrelated news conference Tuesday that he did not intend to release it.

Republican candidate Scott Milne said he plans to release his tax information on Oct. 15.



New strain of March Madness hits Statehouse

Basketball fans aren’t the only ones suffering from March Madness this week.

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann today began handing out copies of a tournament bracket that pits 32 taxes against each other in a race for revenue dominance.

It’s a fun jab at the very real deliberations going on inside the House Committee on Ways and Means right now, where lawmakers are winnowing a slate of revenue options that range from sales taxes on clothing, candy and bottled water to the elimination of capital gains exemptions and the home-mortgage interest deduction.

Scheuermann, Stowe Republican who sits on the House Committee on Commerce, has even seeded the various possibilities. A tax on items sold on vending machines earned a two-seed, and will look to advance to the second round with a win over the seventh-seeded tax on car washes. In anther first-round match up, a tax on break-open tickets will look to pull the small upset over a $15,000 cap on home-mortgage interest deductions.

No cash pool unfortunately, but the tax bracketology has made for a welcome distraction. For lawmakers on ways and means, any lightheartedness will be short-lived as they turn their focus to the very real task of coming up with a source for the $20 million in new revenues needed for next year’s budget.

Vermont hit with D-minus for transparency

Ouch. The U.S. Public Interest Group has graded all 50 states on government transparency. And Vermont is near the bottom of the barrel with a ‘D-’, according to the authors of “Following the Money 2012.”

Government here lacks the kind of “online transparency portals” through which modern-day bureaucracies ought to be transmitting data to the public, the study says.

In states with high marks, those portals offer a clear view of “the state’s checkbook – who receives state money, how much, and for what purposes.”

In the 10 states that received Ds, the study says, “online checkbooks are difficult to use,” and “rarely provide spending details for off-budget agencies, post information on state revenue foregone through tax expenditures, or link to city and county expenditure sites.”

The Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office has worked in recent years to bolster transparency around the issue foregone revenue inVermont. Exemptions and tax loopholes, the JFO has found, amount to more than $1 billion annually. But apparently the analysts’ work isn’t as detailed or searchable yet as USPIRG thinks it should be.

New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island also got stuck with D-minuses. Massachusetts earned an A- for having a “user-friendly” portal with “comprehensive information on government expenditures.” New York got a B+.

State revenues disappointing for January, but better than 2011

MONTPELIER — A shortage of snow has hurt the Vermont economy and is one reason state tax revenues came in below target in January, the Shumlin administration said Wednesday.
General fund revenue was $4.7 million, or 3.5 percent, below target for the month, the administration said in a news release.
Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding said the results were disappointing but not surprising.
“The lack of snow is having an impact on consumption tax receipts, and personal income tax withholding was less than predicted,” Spaulding said in a written statement.
The underlying economy appears to be stronger than the January results indicate, he said.
Revenues are below target for the year so far by less than 1 percent. But Spaulding noted that January revenue was still 1.3 percent higher than a year ago, “indicative of our modest but steady recovery.”
The transportation fund was also down 3.4 percent. Non-property tax education fund revenue — which accounts for 12 percent of the education fund — was down 1.5 percent.

House approves tax relief for Irene-ravage towns and cities

On just its third day in session, the Vermont House of Representatives voted out a tax abatement bill that will soften the financial blow to municipalities ravaged by Tropical Storm Irene.

On the whole, Irene’s impact on Vermont property values was pretty minor. The $109 million in damage to residential and commercial properties statewide amounts to only about one-tenth of 1 percent of the state’s $81.3 billion grand list.

But for communities like Waterbury, which saw $9.9 million in property damage, or Wilmington, which registered more than $13 million in losses, the legislation approved unanimously Thursday will prevent the disaster from triggering even more fiscal pressure on taxpayers in those communities.

The bill, expected to cost the state between $2 million and $4 million in general fund money, will reimburse towns for whatever property-tax revenue that will be lost as a result of the damage to homes and businesses. It also will prevent affected property owners from having to pay taxes on home value that no longer exists.

Otherwise, those towns would be left to make up the difference internally, resulting in higher – in some cases substantially higher – tax rates on the rest of the tax-paying population.

Eighty-two towns reported some property damage as a result of Irene; of those, 23 had losses of more than $1 million, according to Bill Johnson with the Vermont Department of Taxes. Residential homes were hit hardest, accounting for 71 percent of all property damage.

The bill enjoyed tri-partisan support in the House, and is expected to move quickly through the Senate as well.

“In the storms of the past year, significant damage was done to private properties across the state,” House Speaker Shap Smith said in a written statement. “I am glad we were able to expedite this bill to provide help to those hit hard by natural disaster.”

Shumlin in State of State: No new taxes

Peter Shumlin has announced proposals for “significant” state investments in higher education, a more aggressive push for renewable energy, and a prescription drug-monitoring plan aimed at curbing the availability of opiate pain killers.

Those are the main initiatives outlined in the governor’s State of the State address, which focuses largely on the stories of heroism in the days and weeks after Tropical Storm Irene.

Shumlin will close his speech in a couple moments by issuing what appears to be a no-new-taxes pledge.

“I remain determined,” he will say, “not to increase broad-based taxes on Vermonters as we begin to see signs of modest economic growth.”

That may not sit well with members of Occupy Vermont, a contingent of whom is sitting in the House gallery.


Irene, jobs will headline State of State

The governor’s State of the State address, scheduled to get underway about 90 minutes from now, will focus largely on “Irene, jobs, and how those things are connected.”

That’s according to Chief of Staff Bill Lofy, who said the speech clocks in at 28 minutes, give or take.

Peter Shumlin’s inaugural State of the State will no doubt be a feel-good affair, with nods to the heroes of Tropical Storm Irene and odes to Vermont Exceptionalism. About midway through the speech, he’ll unveil the “Vermont Strong” license plate, a money-raising initiative to support survivors of the floods.

Aides to the governor are setting up a pair of sleek teleprompters right now. Last year, the devices failed to work in the early going, but finally activated about three minutes in. Hell was paid. It won’t happen again.

We’re unlikely to hear anything too controversial today. Next week though, when the governor drops his budget proposal on lawmakers, the partisan sparks will fly.

Jab and parry over ed taxes begins

Republicans seem to think they’ve found a chink in the armor of fiscal conservatism Peter Shumlin has donned since his election last year.

The governor last week sought to put an upbeat spin on dour news that statewide education tax rates are headed for a 2-cent increase. Vermonters can avoid the rate hike, Shumlin said, if only they tell their school boards to level-fund budgets local schools.

Republicans, however, say it’s Shumlin – not community school boards – who needs to shoulder the blame for higher tax bills. The Shumlin administration earlier this year authored a provision in the budget bill that reduced the annual contribution from the general fund to education fund by $27 million.

The move ameliorated a general-fund shortfall that had threatened the delivery of human-services programs. Rep. Oliver Olsen though says it created a hole in the ed fund that property-tax payers will now have to backfill.

Olsen and Rep. Patti Komline fired off a missive Monday taking Shumlin and other Democrats to task.

“In effect, the Legislature legalized a perpetual raid on the education fund, leaving Vermont property taxpayers to foot the bill for years to come,” Olsen said in a statement.

Komline, meanwhile, likened to move to outright theft.

“For the past two years, local school boards have worked hard to relieve the property tax burden by keeping costs down. Unfortunately, Montpelier will pocket those savings, even as the Governor sets up school boards to take the blame for increased property taxes next year,” Komline said.

It’s a line of attack you can expect to see more of as the 2012 political season heats up.