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Legislative Notes for April 5, 2012

March 30, 2012

Several Bills of importance passed the House this week.  The three bills I have chosen to write about are the miscellaneous tax bill, a working landscape bill and a National Guard member coverage bill.  As with all bills passed by the legislature, these three had some good points and some bad points.

This miscellaneous tax bill modifies, adds or rescinds elements of the revenue stream for the state on annual basis.  This year’s version of the bill was less controversial than many I have seen in the past.  It raises an additional $7.6 million in revenue, modifies some language dealing with personal income and is relatively neutral to most taxpayers.  However, the section that bothered me the most was a new tax that is being levied on Vermont Yankee Nuclear power plant.  Under this bill the plant will now be charged $6 million annually in power generation taxes.  The tax in this bill is new but, the total amount being paid by the plant to the State is not new or increasing because the tax replaces a fee that was expiring under a previous agreement.  To me this seems like sour grapes.  The Governor, Attorney General and Legislative leaders lost their initial court case to close this plant.  Now they are assessing excessive taxes on this business in an effort to close it down. What industry or business will be targeted next?

The working landscape bill is an attempt to establish a program that utilizes Vermont’s forest and agricultural landscape as well as the good will of the state for economic development purposes and to create jobs.  This is a good idea but, it is creating a new program without a dedicated funding source at a time when we need to curtail the growth of government and spending.  Therefore, I could not support this bill at this time.

The National Guard bill addressed a situation that occurs when the Governor activates the Guard to assist the state in emergency situations.  This issue was brought to light during the Tropical Storm Irene disaster.  It covers members of the Guard who are called to active duty and serve beyond 30 days.  It compensates these members for the employer share of costs for health insurance and housing.  It is estimated that passage of this bill may cost the state approximately $18,000 to $25,000 if this type situation occurs in the future.  I supported this bill out of respect for the service these people provide to our state, country and all of us.

Before I cast my vote in the legislature, I always go through the same thoughtful process of evaluating the elements of a bill.  Weighing the positive components versus the negative is very difficult and at times leads to an agonizing decision.   Unfortunately this biennium, I have found myself voting “no” more often than not because I just can’t support legislation that increases the cost of living in Vermont.  This legislative session, we have passed well over eighty bills and many of these bills will increase what it costs to do business and or live here in Vermont.

As your representative, I look forward to representing you and your concerns in Montpelier.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns. I am very interested in hearing from you.  During the session, I can be reached at the Statehouse by calling 1-800-322-5616 or by cell at 373-5960. My email address is dturner@leg.state.vt.us. My web-site address is www.donturnerjr.com. Thank you and have a great week.

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