Published in News and Citizen 4-21-15

Guest Editorial by Mickey Smith

“No New Taxes” Not No New Fees

Last week the Water Quality Bill passed the Senate Natural Resources Committee. The bill, designed to clean up Vermont’s lakes and streams is being heralded as a great step towards improving the water quality.  I’m not going to debate the merits of this project, Speaker of the House Shap Smith sold me when he said the state needs to do something now or else have the feds take the project over. (And if you think it’s going to cost a lot now, just wait until the federal “free” money gets involved.
    Instead, I would like to talk about the funding mechanism coming from Montpelier – you know the same Montpelier that heard it loud and clear that we can’t handle new taxes. Rather they have decided to impose a $25 per parcel of land fee that will be collected along with our property taxes. Everyone will pay the same fee. Meaning my tenth of an acre will have the same impact on solving the problem as those massive farms in the Champlain Valley with hundreds of cows dumping phosphorus into the rivers just barely upstream from Lake Champlain. At last I can warmly feel that I am really doing my part.
    But what about the roughly half of Vermont that doesn’t drain into Lake Champlain? Have we heard from the eastern lands? Do those waters have the same concerns as Champlain, or is this a very heavily Champlain weighted spending plan? What the heck let’s just make them pay, too.  That’s fair, isn’t it.
    So what will this fee get us? Most assuredly it will get our communities help to get the phosphorus out of our wastewater treatment facilities, right? Perhaps it will give our town road crews money to implement the changes to our backroads that they feel are necessary? Not quite, the money will actually be spent on hiring 20 new state employees. In a cost saving effort to their bill, Montpelier had the foresight to pass the costs of implementation of their plans on to the cities and towns of Vermont.
    But good news, they didn’t tax us.