That the thrust of Gov. James Douglas’ final budget address was to cut spending was no surprise. But that he chose to raise property taxes on middle-income Vermonters while seeking tax reductions for the richest Vermonters seems out-of-sync with the state and the times. Add that he continues to throw money at roads and bridges and put a greater burden on the property tax and you have ample cause for a difference of opinion on how to make up for the projected $154 million shortfall in next year’s spending plan.
In his final State of the State address, Gov. Jim Douglas emphasized three familiar themes: promote job growth, cut taxes and reduce school spending. He’s been saying much the same thing for the previous few years to little success — a fact that he has too willingly blamed on his opponents.
In retrospect, he might have wondered if a more progressive agenda could have yielded better results.
Consider the state’s current plight and the possibility of a different approach.
The coincidence of having two of my three post-college-age daughters home over the holiday and it being the end of the first decade of the 21st century prompted this observation: While New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winning economist Paul Krugman called the decade past “The Big Zero” for the economic stagnation that pervaded the Bush years, my daughters’ view of the decade was one of excitement and optimism.
Consider their perspective.
As the first decade of the 21st century slips into the annals of history, a review of the nation’s progress is useful if we are to avoid past mistakes and set a better course for the next decade. And it is as important for individuals to understand, as it is for the nation as a whole.
If we consider human nature, making New Year’s resolutions a singular endeavor is akin to pulling your fortune out of a cookie: it might just happen, but the odds are against it.
But involve your friends and neighbors in the effort, and the success rate jumps dramatically.
Taking that as a cue, let’s set a few resolutions for the New Year as collective communities and mark our progress as the year evolves.
In Middlebury, let’s resolve to:
After Monday morning’s demolition, the Champlain Bridge is history. It’s time for a few more hours of romanticized reflection, then a redoubling of efforts to build a new bridge in record time that will make the trip over the lake better in every way.
That, at least, should be the goal.
Just how could the new bridge serve the public better? Here are a few key ways, some of which have been previously suggested by readers, and are being tentatively considered by state officials:
Tax Commissioner Rich Westman has been touring the state for the past couple of months warning that current school spending was not sustainable without significant tax increases. He followed those warnings by becoming the first tax commissioner to recommend raising the statewide property tax. The first warnings barely made headlines back in October; the proposed statewide tax increase got most people’s attention; and now that local stories are reporting local taxes could go up 6 percent and budgets are still having to be cut substantially, most everyone is paying attention.
As these 11 days before Christmas loom before us — family is getting together, there are meals to prepare and presents yet to buy — remember to relax and enjoy the rich traditions of this holiday season that make it so worthwhile.
The holiday focus in Middlebury — as in Brandon, Bristol and Vergennes — is about community festivals, contributing to several wonderful community causes through special events, listening to chorus groups ring in the season, and for many it is a season for worship and reflection.