Letter to the editor: Business owner wonders about choice to hike taxes

Vermont’s budget standoff has ended. Our legislators fought hard for a tax increase, and they won. Despite new state revenue projections suggesting first a $44 million surplus and now a $55 million revenue surplus, taxes on many Vermonters will go up.
Taxes will rise on my company’s business property. Taxes will also rise for your hair stylist, your plumber, your local auto repair shop, your local bookstore, and other small businesses. Property taxes on rental housing — and likely rents — will rise for the many Vermonters who live in rented homes and apartments. If you are fortunate enough to have a deer camp or a woodlot, your taxes will go up, too.
In an unusually protracted legislative session that included two sustained budget vetoes, the Legislature ran out the clock on potential negotiations with the governor, and a state government shutdown loomed closer. With time running out, the governor made the responsible decision to end the uncertainty and keep the government running.
Supporters of raising taxes framed the debate as one of good fiscal policy, but I think this had a lot to do with politics within branches of the Legislature and with the Legislature’s relationship with the governor. The governor has been weakened politically by his courageous change of heart to support state gun legislation, and now he has been forced to give in on his pledge not to raise our taxes.
These factors may affect the outcome of November’s election, and I believe they should.
If Vermonters want a governor who will raise their taxes in a year when the state has a large budget surplus, then voters can throw out this governor in November and choose from one of the many gubernatorial candidates who may be more willing to raise their taxes.
One could not want a more clear campaign issue. Let candidates make the case why they would raise taxes on Vermonters this year.
During the campaign, we must ask every candidate — for governor, lieutenant governor, the House and the Senate — where they stand on this issue. We must ask, under what conditions would candidates vote against an increase in taxes on Vermonters.
This is a political issue, and it should be decided at the ballot box in November.
Paul Ralston
Vermont Coffee Company

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