The past week went quickly, very full of discussions, debate, and learning!
Rep. Carolyn Branagan’s Update
The Ways and Means Committee spent a lot of time dealing with what we know best…money.
The Vermont Incentive Growth Program (VEGI) is a program designed to increase employment and encourage business growth. The Committee began to look at whether the program was working as intended, testimony continues.
The Tax Increment Financing (TIF) annual report is out and the committee discussed this at length as we took testimony on it. The TIF program has always bothered me because it is paid out of the Education Fund and the taxpayers do not get a choice to use their money for this purpose or not, the statutes allow it just happen. Annual cost for the TIF program out of the Ed Fund runs $7-15 million
S.93 is a bill that would exempt wood boilers from sales tax. Discussion continues.
The Earned Income Tax Credit is a tax credit parents can receive federally and from the state based on the number of children in the household. This has benefitted many low income Vermont families. I was initially opposed to allowing the state version of the Earned Income Tax Credit because I thought other benefit programs covered enough needs of these low income families, they didn’t need any more. But I started reading the reports about this program, especially about the federal version. This program does a great deal of good and really does improve quality of life and self direction for low income families. It continues.
The committee discussed briefly the taxing of services like hair salons, accounting work, legal work and other professional work. This may receive closer attention, I am watching carefully.
The committee spent a good deal of time learning about pupil weighting and how it related to a community’s ability to levy property tax and the amount of money it receives from the state for Pre-K thru 12 education. Much of this new information was new to me.
We discussed the Universal Service fund and its ability to grow. I am watching what develops there very closely.
Several new bills were introduced in the Ways and Means Committee and posted on the wall for possible further action.
Rep. Ashley Bartley’s Update
As you may recall, a few weeks ago I asked you to contact your Senators to support S.100 out of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs. That form of the bill had bi-partisan support and was supported by the Governor. However, by the time the bill left the Senate Natural Resource and Energy Committee (the same committee that pushed The Carbon Tax Bill [S.5] and does not have a single Republican on it), it looked drastically different. Concern grew that the ACT 250 reform was not strong enough to remedy our housing crisis. However, the bill passed out of the Senate 27-2.
Early last week S.100 was referred to the House General and Housing Committee, which meant we should have spent time discussing housing, development, zoning reform and creating housing opportunities for everyone.
Unfortunately and to the dismay of a majority of the House Committee on General & Housing, we were instructed by the Speaker that we would not be able to discuss the zoning and ACT 250 provisions of the bill; despite the bill being referred to our Committee, in its entirety. We were told ACT 250 jurisdiction lies solely in the Energy and Environment Committee.
When I ran for the House, one of my three major campaign themes called for the modernization of ACT 250 and was disappointed to hear that my committee would not be working on this portion of the bill.
Many representatives in the committee, from both sides of the aisle, share this disappointment and a growing concern that the Environment and Energy committee will strip ACT 250 reform from the bill completely. This is based on comments we have heard from the Chair of that Committee. Let me be clear, we cannot address our housing crisis without discussing land use permitting and zoning; our committee, despite having jurisdiction, has been silenced on the issue.
I have joined my colleagues on the “Rural Vermont Caucus” in drafting an editorial supporting the ACT 250 reform portions of S.100. This caucus has bi-partisan membership.
If S.100 does not sustain its ACT 250 reform and zoning provision, many legislators will be less likely to support the bill. And, once again, Montpelier will be kicking the can down the road.
We'd love to hear from you! Contact us anytime!
Carolyn Branagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ashley Bartley | email@example.com
Feel free to contact us: