Archive - Editorial
September 28th, 2007
Partisans on both sides of the political aisle in Vermont might wonder why members of either party would want to push raising the income tax as a means of funding education. That, however, is what House Democrats are considering and what Gov. James Douglas has pounced on as if it were a political softball for him to slug out of the park.
The proposal by House Democrats and some House Republicans is simply to reduce the property tax burden on people’s homes and replace it with a higher personal income tax. The theory is simple: the income tax reflects a person’s ability to pay the tax better than a tax on one’s property. Without a doubt, that is true.
But that’s not the issue. The perception of hiking the income tax is the issue to this governor, as is the prospect of creating a tax scenario that could increase overall education spending. It doesn’t even matter if the net tax effect is neutral: what matters is that Vermont would hike its income tax and the governor thinks the perception of increased taxes might discourage businesses and individuals from locating here.
As the war in Iraq continues to deteriorate, civil war looms closer on the horizon and the military progress in Iraq is falling far short of President Bush’s own modest goals, it is clear to nearly everyone but this president and a handful of his advisors that it is time to devise another strategy in Iraq.
Diplomacy with allies in the region is one answer, though the collapse of a central power that can provide a modicum of safety for Iraqi residents presents a huge hurdle to overcome. As U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker said late last week, fear now dominates the landscape. “If there is one word I would use to sum up the atmosphere in Iraq — on the streets, in the countryside, in the neighborhoods and at the national level — that word would be fear.”
Gravel pits that currently exist near residential areas are akin to putting matches next to powder kegs: it doesn’t take much of a spark to blow things sky high. That has been true in Bristol as that community has struggled with a proposal to expand a pit close to the downtown owned by the Lathrop family. A similar battle is brewing in East Middlebury with a proposal by J.P. Carrara & Sons to expand an existing pit there (see stories on Page 1A.). In both cases, what’s needed is a big-picture view of current and future residential development within the respective towns along with the recognition by residents that economic benefits can be derived by the respective expansions.
In the case in East Middlebury, the proposed expansion of the gravel pit is a direct benefit to Carrara & Son’s concrete business — a principle factor in the business’s operations for the past several decades. The business is also one of Middlebury’s largest, employing more than 100 area residents with many high-paying jobs.
Students at Vergennes Union High School learned a lot more than just how to speak in public and how to organize an event around an issue during this year’s Peace One Day rally. They also learned the meaning of public activism.
Most importantly, they learned how to do it well.
By “well,” we mean their general approach to the issue of peace. “We may not be able to control what other states or countries are doing, but we can control the world around us or at least our part in it,” said Kelly Burkett in today’s issue of the Addison Independent. (See story Page 3A.) The comment reflects the students’ emphasis on support of peace at all levels or society, rather than a protest against America’s involvement in the war in Iraq.
Gov. James Douglas and Natural Resources Sec. George Crombie announced an important initiative late last week to consider ways to restore and revitalize the state park system. The first step in that hoped-for outcome is to create a 20-member commission to craft a game plan.
Win Smith, president of Sugarbush Resort in Warren, and Tom Hark, founding president of the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, are the chairman and vice-chairman respectively. Their recommendations to the governor are to be delivered by Jan. 31, 2008. One of the interesting early suggestions made by the governor and Human Resources Sec. Cynthia LaWare is to offer employment of some of the state’s young and underemployed residents.
“The governor and I recognize that every Vermonter has unique talents and deserves the chance for meaningful employment,” LaWare said. “Just as the Vermont economy will require every qualified job seeker to meet the needs of the business community, Vermont State Parks will need to utilize every available individual to help in this rebuilding effort.”
From the nation’s military point of view, according to one military intelligence official who spoke anonymously to the press corps, even a veto-proof congressional majority elected in 2008 is unlikely to demand a full, immediate military withdrawal from Iraq. Instead, any withdrawal will be staggered to preserve the most stable situation possible in the hopes of preventing internal chaos. The military’s best possible scenario, as this official forecast, is to “get (Iraq) as stable as we can, with the troops we have, and in the time available. And then, we’ll back out as carefully as we can.”
In a slick move, the Bush administration has usurped Congress’ ability to write into law regulations to protect the public. The move came this week via an executive order that directed all federal agencies to brief the White House before any agency directive went into effect if the regulations had an economic impact of more than $100 million annually. The directive also puts a White House appointee as the gatekeeper over agencies that regulate domestic laws pertaining to public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.
“The executive order allows the political staff at the White House to dictate decisions on health and safety issues, even if the government’s own impartial experts disagree,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “This is a terrible way to govern, but great news for special interests.”
This past Tuesday the federal minimum wage was raised for the first time in a decade. Workers who had been earning just $5.15 per hour will see their pay jump 70 cents to $5.85. That’s meager progress, but the law enacted for this year’s wage increase also stipulated jumps of 70 cents per hour for the next two summers to follow — meaning the wage will go to $6.55 in 2008 and $7.25 in 2009. But is it enough?
A little math helps put the numbers in perspective: Someone earning $5.15 per hour and working a 40-hour week pulls in $10,712 per year; at $5.85 per hour, they’ll earn $12,168 annually; at $6.55, they’ll earn $13,624; and at $7.25, they’ll make $15,080. The net effect of the legislation, therefore, is an effective increase for minimum wage earners of $4,368 annually — a significant amount of money and huge percentage increase.