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Legislative Notes for April 10, 2014

April 5, 2014

H.889 Setting the statewide education tax base rates and base education amount for fiscal year 2015 and making several changes to Vermont’s education financing laws passed the House on Friday. This bill will raise education property taxes by 4 cents on residential properties and 7.5 cents on non residential properties this year which is in addition to the respective 5 and 6 cent tax increases last year. This is only one element of what we pay in taxes. The rest is a blend of three factors: our local budget, the combined statewide school spending budget, and that “common level of appraisal” factor. Therefore, if a majority of school districts around the state increase budgets, than the cost for every taxpayer goes up, since the state-raised money is distributed equally. The legislature had no choice but to increase the property tax rates to raise the money voted in by school districts. However, I do not support this funding mechanism or these increases in taxes so I did not support the bill.

Once again, the legislature chooses to ignore this serious problem and does not intend to do anymore to improve or replace the current financing system. Would a new funding mechanism really matter, if we haven’t gotten a handle on the statewide increases in budgets that occur above the level of inflation and despite fewer students? I am not sure but, the funding bill that passed this year did make a few tweaks that put more pressure on voters to take a hard look at increases, but those won’t bring about any dramatic changes. I am hopeful that the legislature will make a serious attempt at addressing the unsustainable increases in education spending prior to switching to a more progressive income tax funding system. A legislature can never force a future legislature to do something, so in these final weeks of the current biennium, nothing will likely be put in motion.

H.888 Approval of amendments to the Charter of the Town of Milton passed the House on Friday as well and will be moving to the Senate next week. This should be passed by the Senate well before the end of the session.

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 http://www.donturnerjr.com. Thank you and have a great week.

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