Gov. Shumlin defends break-­open ticket tax

BRISTOL — At a public luncheon at American Legion Post 19 in Bristol this week, Gov. Peter Shumlin defended his plan to fund a program to weatherize Vermont homes by taxing break-open tickets.
The Vermont Home Energy Challenge is an Efficiency Vermont-led effort to weatherize 80,000 homes by the year 2020. The program is particularly directed at porous homes from which expensive heat is escaping.
Weybridge resident Spence Putnam supports the program, but at the Bristol luncheon, part of the Legislative Breakfast Series, he stressed the need for more resources to bankroll it.
“The biggest barrier for people is the up-front cost,” Putnam said. “We are not going to get (to the 80,000 homes) if we don’t have dedicated funding for this.”
Shumlin said he supports the weatherization program, which he proposes to support with another controversial tax — a 10-percent  surcharge on break-open tickets, which he believes will generate $6 million annually.
The proposed tax on break-open tickets has drawn sharp criticism from various civic clubs and veterans’ organizations that use proceeds from the sale of the tickets to assist various community causes.
Ron LaRose, commander of Bristol American Legion Post 19, displayed a box of 3,079 break-open tickets that he said cost the Legion $53, on which the organization paid a state sales tax of $3.18. He said the built-in profit on the box of tickets is $474 at sales of $1 per ticket. The Legion, he said, will make a net profit of $417.82 for charity.
LaRose said he believed the proposed surcharge would result in the state leaving the Legion with a net profit of only $109.82 for that box of break-open tickets, money used to help veterans, Boy Scouts, baseball and basketball teams, Bristol’s July 4 fireworks, scholarships, American flags and various charitable endeavors.
“When you take the profit from us … all of those organizations are going to be without us,” LaRose said.
Shumlin disputed LaRose’s calculations, saying the impact of the surcharge will be on the producer/vendor of the break-open tickets. He said he suspects the vendors themselves are reaping a substantial profit that does not go to charity. He promised to have Vermont Department of Liquor Control Commissioner Mike Hogan speak with Legion officials about the plan.
“Our proposal in our view, will strengthen your ability to give money to nonprofits you are supporting and will give you a percentage of the take to help with the administration of this club and other clubs across the state,” Shumlin said. “What we are suggesting is that by joining Massachusetts and Connecticut in charging the seller or producer of the games a 10-percent tax, we will be able to fund some important programs and get (the Legion) a better share of administrative cost that you are currently absorbing.”

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