Op-ed: An open letter to Vermont legislators

Bill Schubart

Dear Legislators,

First, thank you all for your willingness to serve your constituents and all Vermonters. You are appreciated by most of us. But please remember, you serve both the special wants and needs of your constituents … and, of all Vermonters, whose needs sometimes differ. Foster the balance.

The bill-drafting process is broken. You haven’t started yet and the hopper is filling fast. Don’t let the hopper fill up with special interest and fix-it bills until the legislative leadership and committees establish statewide priorities.

Vermont is an array of complex systems that previous legislators have tweaked and made more complex and expensive over time: the judiciary, education, human services, tax code, state colleges, criminal justice and public safety among others. Stop tweaking, step back, agree on the strategic outcomes you want from each system and reinvent them for today. This will lower the cost of government, simplify regulations and free up revenues for new endeavors.

Public servants shouldn’t set their own salaries. Align your interests with Vermonters’, whose average per capita income in 2015 was about $48,000. If you work for six months, raise your salary to half that amount, and don’t game the system for per diems. If you earn a pauper’s wage, only the well-off can afford to serve. File an expense report like everyone else. Be accountable.

Establish a real Ethics Commission as trust-building resource. (P.S. you don’t have one.)

Scrap the two-year term. It’s a loony artifact of the past. Who would take a job as complex as yours at your salary and have to reapply in 18 months? It’s expensive, counter-strategic and wasteful. Move on.

Vermont has a progressive tax code. Establish a progressive minimum wage. The company that owns 18 gas stations has a different net asset balance and payroll capacity than the owner-operated convenience store in Glover. Scale a new minimum wage to the net worth of the employer.

If I buy a lawn mower, I pay sales tax. If I can afford to have someone else mow my lawn, I don’t. We need a consumer services sales tax.

Surely, 178 legislators representing 620,000 can allocate $5.5 billion in a way that meets our needs. That’s $9,000 per Vermonter. The key challenge will be to clean the attic of accumulated tweaks and fixes, agree on outcomes, consolidate where appropriate and reinvent.

Bill Schubart

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  1. Arlene Mutschler says:

    Sir you are a socialist. You deem to dictate to corp, what they can pay their employees? The person that owns 12 gas stations, should not have to pay their employees based on their bottom line. Perhaps they charge less per gallon because they can. A single gas station say in Glover, probably charges a lot more per gallon because he has no competition. Perhaps his bottom line is higher? his overhead is less. He hires local people at min wage and they dont complain. If I buy a lawn mover, I pay sales tax ( okay unless I go to NH). The person I pay to mow my lawn has already paid sale tax on the equipment. He also pays his employees and deducts ( I hope) taxes from their wages. So IF I am stupid enough to pay sales tax on his services? The state is collecting twice. And if I am forced to pay sales tax? Perhaps I cant afford to hire them? If I am on a fixed income? or unable to mow my own lawn? then what? You have not thought any of this out, you just think that “THEY” should do something? No sir, you are a socialist and you and Bernie should have lunch together and you can both quibble over who pays the bill? Altho if Bernie pays, he puts it on his expense account and he gets reimbursed.. and who pays for that? Those that pay the already outrageous income and sales taxes in VT! Which is only a small percentage of the population. Those that cant drive to NH to shop or those not working. Tell Bernie I said HOWDY!!

  2. RAYMOND E MAKUL says:

    If you pay someone to mow your lawn, they pay income tax on their labor. If you do it yourself with your own lawn mower, there is no income tax on your labor.

    If you want taxation to be identical on self supplied vs purchased services, you should pay income tax on everything you do for yourself that you could have hired someone else to do.

    Paying sales tax on services, and, in addition, having the service provider pay income tax, would result in double taxation of services.