Thanks, Chittenden County voters
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported my campaign for the Vermont Senate. I am deeply appreciative of all the fine effort and good wishes.
The margin of victory by the sole Republican winner in the district was substantially reduced and the vote total positioning of the non-winning Democrat was also changed from the last time.
I was also appreciative of the margin of victory in the city of Burlington.
I am continuing to work on the projects, committees, and goals raised during the campaign. Once again, many thanks.
Thanks, Windsor County voters
My great thanks go to all who voted to return me to office for a fifth term as assistant judge and I will continue to work as best I can for the best interests of Windsor County and all the parties who appear before me in court. I am grateful also that the general election was significantly less rancorous than the primary.
This past week, the assistant judges met with the county clerk and the county treasurer to begin preparing the county budget for fiscal year 2007-08. For the most part, the budget appears to be relatively stable in the main areas mandated by the Legislature.
Probably the most urgent need is a new roof for the courthouse, whose roof is 150 years old and slowly failing. We also need, among other things, a new roof on the county building, new furnaces at both buildings, and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance at the courthouse.
In September, in letters to the editor, I invited county residents to send me any suggestions they might have regarding the budget. I sent the same letter to Windsor County towns and legislators. To date, I have received no response. Comments are still welcome, either by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or regular mail to Windsor Superior Court, 12 The Green, Woodstock, Vermont 05091.
A lot of talk this election season was about taxes to fund programs to sustain the high quality of life we all enjoy in Vermont. One of the biggest obstacles that our newly elected legislators and governor face is how to pay for programs that make society safer and more just, like after-school and teen center programs for at-risk youth, childcare for single mothers trying to forge a better life for themselves and their children, substance abuse treatment and prevention programs, mental health counseling, domestic violence awareness and prevention programs, and a corrections department focused on rehabilitation.
One highly viable tax solution is a “fair share tax.” This is a slight income tax increase on persons making over $125,000 a year — amounting to only around one half of one percent. Such a small personal burden, already given back to these wealthy Vermonters by the federal tax cuts, would raise $14.5 million to invest in the people of our state. Making folks at the highest end of the income range pay their fair share for the good of all doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
During the Clinton administration, the federal budget was balanced using just such a method. More recently, other states like California and New Jersey have passed similar taxes on their wealthiest citizens.
As our new government is taking shape, let’s seriously consider balancing the budget and paying for the programs that will keep Vermont a great place to live by passing a fair share tax.
The property tax brouhaha: Red
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary calls a “red herring” “something that distracts attention from the real issue.” Vermont’s current property tax red herring has many causes (John McClaughry’s column, Nov. 3).
First, the tax burden is higher than in most states, but Vermont offers more and better government services than most states: public schools, universities, health care, town meetings, and roads, to name a few.
The Vermont Republican propaganda machine has been harping on the “affordability” mantra and specifically picking on property taxes. However, the property tax brouhaha obscures a larger, federal tax injustice.
I have just calculated our 2005 tax burden as percentages: 71 percent is federal income tax, 9.8 percent is Vermont income tax, and 19.2 percent is the property tax. Looking at it logically, where is there more room to try to cut? From the 71 percent at the federal level or the 29 percent state tax?
I believe perceptive readers will understand the importance of the factors just listed. But there is a more important consideration that will make the affordabilisters stop harping on the property tax and redirect their attention to the real issue: The unfair U.S. individual (and small business) income tax, compared to the corporate income tax.
Most people believe that taxes are mainly, or only, to pay for government operations. Since most people have learned to distrust, or even hate, government, they believe that the least government and the least taxation is best.
Tax justice and tax fairness groups invariably harp on these two themes, and have the unanimous support of the rich who are really the only ones to benefit from least government and least taxes. Their “success” is undeniable: Corporations used to pay more than 30 percent of the national tax burden, while in 2002 they paid a single digit percentage, about 6 percent. Only tax mavens notice this; other taxpayers pay no attention partly because this reduction is not much publicized by the corporate media, and partly because the public feels it cannot do anything about it anyway.
The fact that no single taxpayer alone can change tax injustice does not mean that a small group of thoughtful, committed legislators cannot reduce or eliminate tax injustice. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever will. For example, only a very few people know that ordinary people are second class citizens when it comes to tax accounting. Individuals and small businesses must calculate taxes on their gross income. Not so corporations. In corporate accounting, the gross is sales, from which is deducted “cost of goods” which includes raw materials, labor, utilities, maintenance, depreciation, and a lot of other items. The difference between sales and cost of goods is gross profit, from which corporations deduct more items like research, marketing, administration, etc. That leads to taxable income or profit, which is then used for dividends and retained earnings.
But wait a minute. Does not the employee or wage earner also have to pay for the cost of his labor, such as food, shelter, health care, transportation, education, and vacation before he can sell his labor for salaries or wages?
According to a study of Vermont state tax returns, the median income for a married family filing a joint return was $53,509 in 2002. It is safe to say that such a family’s costs were around $50,000, leaving $3,500 for savings. As of 2005, individuals and small businesses got a measly $6,400 exemption plus a $10,000 standard deduction for a couple filing jointly. Is $16,400 enough to pay for their cost of living? Not hardly.
I believe we need a new tax law to increase the federal exemption to $50,000, and pay tax only on any family income above $50,000. This will immediately exempt half the population from federal taxes, and greatly reduce taxes on the other half. The balance of the national tax burden would, of course, be paid by corporations.
How can Vermont bring about nationwide tax fairness as between individuals and corporations? First, we need to create a U.S. Department of Social and National Security (DOSNAS), by merging the Department of Defense into the Social Security Administration.
First, Social Security benefits are a fixed obligation of the U.S. government. Defense expenditures are purely optional and benefit only big business and the rich. By merging budgets, there will never be a Social Security funding shortfall, and the leftover will always suffice for optional warring and warmongering until people realize that big business should hire mercenaries to protect their interests, not use U.S. forces.
Second, by insuring Social Security and social justice, the people’s need and desire for socialism will be retarded. Also, the skepticism of the survival of Social Security of the people in their 20s and 30s would be transformed into the most enthusiastic supporters of creating this new department.
Third, by limiting war spending to what the nation can afford, the U.S. will become less threatening to humanity, and will eventually regain humanity’s good will.
Fourth, there has never been a justified war since World War II. Large parts of the U.S. population have opposed the Korean, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars. DOSNAS can help avoid wars with Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, etc.
Fifth, creating DOSNAS will free tax funds for public interest uses while shrinking the military-industrial complex and control its evil and illegitimate power, and will enable the U.S. once again to lead by example instead of dominating and exploiting other nations by imperialist overstretch.
Sixth, by limiting DOSNAS executive staff to persons whose principal income is from Social Security, we can insure that the optional military will not be funded until these obligations are fully paid each month.
How can Vermont help Washington in raising the individual income tax exemption to cover the cost of living, say $50,000? Or to roll the DOD into DOSNAS, to prevent any future Social Security shortfall? Or even to fully fund unfunded federal mandates, such as No Child Left Behind? By creating a federal tax forwarder office inside the Vermont Tax Department, which would collect the 1040 forms and forward certified copies of both the forms and the checks to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) so the IRS will not harass individuals, and then write a big check to IRS from which excludes any funds for unfunded mandates and any funds disapproved by Vermont referenda.
It would not cost much because the Vermont Tax Department already has in place a state income tax enforcement machinery. More likely, other states would follow our example to deduct funds for unfunded mandates and other disapproved expenditures.
I am not surprised that Vermont’s delegation is moving quickly to expand Vermont’s wilderness (VermontGuardian.com, Nov. 10).
Sen. Jim Jeffords wants a chunk of wilderness named for him in the same way that a chunk is named for former Sen. George Aiken.
In comments delivered at the dedication of the Aiken unit, he pretty much said that. He views wilderness as his crowning achievement, in the same way that he views the billboard law as the crown jewel of his career in the Vermont Legislature.
We have not yet had an honest reckoning of the economic damage done to rural Vermont by the billboard law, and probably in my lifetime we will not see an honest assessment of the damage done to rural occupations, traditional craft and manufacturing jobs, and cultural patterns from wilderness creation.
The Vermont Wilderness Association in 1972 identified 200,000 acres to be designated wilderness. They now have more than one-third of their goal, and they will not stop until it is all taken.
planning needs focus
The residents of the Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) find great frustration in the extreme lack of urgency shown by Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee and Vermont’s Department of Emergency Management (VEM) in developing complete, effective emergency response plans for evacuation and sheltering-in-place.
Long promised action items that need definite timelines to encourage completion and accountability include:
• A potassium iodide distribution plan. In case of emergency, how will potassium iodide be distributed to people who don’t have it?
• Establishing a western reception center.
• Implementation of effective emergency notification, including full siren coverage, as well as a tested and fully staffed evacuation route.
• Adequate staffing for all volunteer positions such as town emergency operation centers, route alerting, and a reception center. There should also be a state-supplied backup named and trained.
• A Brattleboro-based VEM office staffed and fully functioning.
• Tri-state transportation drills to test and demonstrate transportation resources for schools, preschools, care facilities, people with special needs, and people without vehicles.
• Public education meetings with question and answer periods.
Establishing timelines for completion of these critical Radiological Emergency Response Plan (RERP) components, along with timely progress reports, will counter the commonly held belief that evacuation is impossible.
Without public confidence, successful implementation of the plan will be extremely difficult.