Letter to the editor: Sharpe questioned about taxation; rep. responds

In watching this election cycle I have three questions for Rep. David Sharpe that have not been answered.
Question One is simple. Are you a YES or a NO vote on any type of Carbon Tax?
Question Two is a bit more complex. Why did you vote yes on every tax and fee increase put before you in 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions? In case you forgot, allow me to refresh your memory. In 2015 you voted yes for $16 million in property tax increases in bill H.361.
Next came a Yes vote on a Ways & Means Committee Amendment to create $12 million in new taxes on candy, sweetened beverages and vending machines. This, of course, could not be out done by your yes vote for $33.2 million, bill H.489, Income Tax Increase. By my basic math skills this amounts to $61.20 million in tax increases for 2015. In 2016 you voted yes on bill H.873 which created $37 million in new miscellaneous taxes too numerous to even list. I will let the readers wait till they file their 2016 tax returns to discover if they affect them. Why spoil the fun of a few new surprises for 2017.
One of my favorites — in 2016 you voted Yes on Bill H.877 creating a price hike of $11 million in motor vehicles fee increases. Another Yes vote by you increased property taxes across the state by $7.9 million found in Bill H.853. Finally in 2016 your Yes vote on Bill 8.872 that resulted in $24 million in various fee hikes across all state departments effecting all Vermont taxpayers and all businesses.
I have to applaud you for doing such a fine job spending our money. The 2016 total is remarkable. A whopping $79.90 million. For the last two years you have exceeded all our expectations on spending. 2015 and 2016 amount to a total of $140 million or so of new and increased fees and taxes.
Question Three is fairly simple. Why on earth would you happily vote for all these increases when they so obviously hurt your five town Addison County constituents’ base. The elderly living on a fixed income; the middle class, hard working, blue collar men and women; the young families just starting out in life. To me it seems these are the folks who generally make up your Democratic voting base. Yet every time a bill was placed before you that would hurt these groups you happily shouted Yes. Why Dave why?
Thank you.
Jodi Lathrop, Bristol
Editor’s note: As we announced in the Independent a few weeks ago, we were only considering letters to the editor on the election that we could publish by the Nov. 3 edition. Part of the reason for this was that we didn’t think it would be fair to put a letter into the Nov. 7 paper — the day before the election — that put a candidate on the spot with questions but no chance to answer them before the election. We received Lathrop’s letter on Nov. 3 — after the deadline — but we wanted to get her voice in the paper if possible, so we reached out to Rep. Sharpe and asked if he wanted to reply in the same edition the letter was published. He did; here’s his reply:
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to respond to the views of Ms. Lathrop regarding my legislative work.
I believe that we need to raise and use tax money responsibly to ensure that our infrastructure is strong so we can build a vibrant economy and way of life here in Vermont.
I am proud of my record. I won my first election because I supported equal rights for same sex Vermont couples. I was proud to cast one of the deciding votes in the override of Gov. Douglas’ veto of the same sex marriage bill.
I have served on the Local Government Committee protecting the rights of various communities in the state to set the rules of governance for their own communities. I served on the Transportation Committee where I made sure that we did as much as we could within the tax dollars available to repair bridges and roads so we could have safe roads to keep our communities connected. I served on the Ways and Means Committee where I voted to increase the gas tax so we could rebuild the deteriorated bridges in Vermont. One result of this effort was finally getting the “stop light” bridge on Route 116 rebuilt.
I was a member of the Government Accountability Committee and oversaw the dramatic change in how water permits were issued so that we continued to protect our waterways and at the same time reduced the time involved for a permit to be issued so that projects could move forward without undue government bureaucracy. This effort, coupled with Transportation Secretary Minter’s innovative bridge projects, allowed the River Road Bridge to be completed in half the time and nearly half the cost compared to the traditional way we used to rebuild bridges in Vermont.
I have worked as a member of the Education Committee to put systems in place that will be more efficient and effective, creating a school system that does a better job of educating our children while keeping costs within what taxpayers can afford.
Our recovery from the Great Recession and Tropical Storm Irene cost taxpayers millions of dollars. This expenditure of taxpayer dollars helped our business community rebuild and thrive. Vermont has added 7,900 new businesses since 2011 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The net tax supported debt is at 2.1 percent, the third-lowest in the country and contributes to our ability to keep a AAA+ bond rating, which only 15 other states can claim. And while retirements have reduced the workforce by 18,000 workers the job market has added 15,000 new jobs. I have voted for tax investments in our state and our economy, particularly in the area of renewable energy and weatherization. These tax-supported investments have helped dozens of schools reduce their carbon footprint and their use of fossil fuels, and helps support businesses such as Lathrop Wood Products with a valuable market for their products. The growth in jobs in the renewable energy business has exceeded 17,000 jobs and has helped Vermont become one of the first states to increase its median income since the recession.
It is important to note that the biggest driver of the state budget as well as many business, school, and home budgets is the rapidly increasing cost of health care. It is this cost that is the biggest challenge to the health of our economy and the rate of tax increases.
I believe that climate change is real and I want to preserve as much of Vermont’s agriculture in the face of new invasive species that threaten our pollinators and our valuable maple trees. So I strongly support increases in weatherization projects of our homes, businesses, and state buildings as well as production of renewable energy. I am against an 88-cent gas tax as a way to reduce consumption of fossil fuels.
I have also voted to support working Vermonters by increasing the minimum wage to over $10 per hour, and to provide a pathway so every Vermont wage earner has an opportunity to earn sick days,
So yes, I have voted for additional tax bills which have helped keep Vermont the best state to live, work, raise a family and retire in. How would we find money to run our state without fees and taxes? Which programs, infrastructure improvements, educational opportunities, and environmental improvements that currently benefit you would you want to do without?
I take my responsibility as a state representative seriously to balance all the moving parts in running our great state for all Vermonters. I am committed to honesty, transparency, working with all Vermonters, the use of common sense, fairness, and listening to all points of view, and above all to engage in civil discourse.
David Sharpe, Bristol

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