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Legislative Notes for April 4, 2013

April 1, 2013

It was a very busy week at the Statehouse, the House passed a new tax bill, the budget, a lake protection bill, expanding free lunch programs in public schools and a bill that modifies the current use program.

The tax bill raised $59.3 million dollars over the next two years by expanding a variety of taxes including bottled water, candy, soda, dietary supplements,cigarettes and clothing, changing the income tax brackets, and increasing the meals tax and vending machine taxes. These new taxes combined with the 5 cent increase in property taxes, the 6.7 cent increase in gas taxes and the increase in government fees the House has raised $109.3 million dollars in new taxes and fees this session. I cannot support these increases that directly impact you and every other working Vermonter. Furthermore, I feel that there is no need to raise these taxes at this time if the majority would just refrain from adding new programs or expanding existing programs.

The spending plan or appropriations/budget bill also passed this week and added a number of new programs and expanded others. This spending proposal continues to grow at an unsustainable rate and uses $50 million in one time money to fund ongoing programs. This practice does not make financial sense and leads to future shortfalls. In anticipation of less federal dollars coming into the state next year as a result of sequestration, our caucus requested that we set aside $20 million in reserves to insure that the state is prepared. These requests were largely ignored and therefore I had to vote against the budget, even though there were items such as base funding of fuel assistance (LIHEAP), funding for higher education, expanding free lunch in public schools and minimal assistance for health care providers with the Medicaid cost shift. I am hopeful that the Senate will be able to improve this legislation and I can vote for it upon its return.

I heard from many lake shore property owners about their concern with this bill. It creates buffers from the shore line and institutes new restrictions for these type of properties. I support cleaning up Vermont’s lakes and waterways but not at the expense of property rights. Again, I hope that the Senate can make this legislation better and I can support it upon its return.

I supported expanding the free lunch program in public schools and the current use legislation. I had voted against expanding the free lunch program out of committee because we were not provided the total costs and funding sources for all of the Governors education initiatives. In the appropriations bill we were given this information about the lunch program which will cost $342,000 a year and I feel that this is a sound investment. The current use program assists landowners of large tracts of land with their property taxes in exchange for keeping the land in production. I feel that this legislation makes improvements to the program and it was widely supported.

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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