Evaluating the evidence on taxation

In his thought-provoking Op-Ed piece of April 4, 2013, George Schiavone raised, perhaps inadvertently, a number of basic and important issues concerning taxation and the purpose of government. His position on taxation is clear—the less, the better. Unmentioned is the purpose of taxation necessary to finance the government’s delivery of basic and vital services that many Vermonters rely on. Maybe Mr. Schiavone agrees with Governor Shumlin that provision of such services is already adequate and no additional taxes are necessary. The evidence, however, is to the contrary.  Just ask persons having various disabilities who have experienced the decline in vital services. Or ask persons among Vermont’s growing aging population who are increasingly dependent on public transportation for food and medical necessities but whose financial assistance has been cut back. Or ask the Department of Corrections and Vermont’s Attorney General about funding restrictions for medical and therapeutic treatments costing $20,000-$25,000 annually for offenders of drug-related crimes rather than sentences of prison incarceration costing $40,000-$50,000 per year and frequently a route for permanent criminal behaviors. And please take note of the many young persons who have left Vermont either to receive adequate financial aid for a college education or to seek a decent paying job elsewhere. And our elected officials should take note of the many other under-funded vital and necessary services that elevate one’s health, education, decent housing, job opportunities, personal safety, Lake Champlain clean-up, and public lands preservation. And not to be overlooked are vital business interests that profit from a variety of state initiatives. Finally, and urgently, childhood poverty should have no home in Vermont and must be overcome.    

While I share Mr. Schiavone’s objection to sales taxes, our reasoning is different. Mr. Schiavone doesn’t want any sales or income tax increases, while I object to regressive taxation. Indeed, Mr. Schiavone’s reference, “to the majority of hard-working Vermonters already struggling with the high cost of living and a slowly recovering economy” would be especially hard hit by regressive taxation. Instead, I strongly agree with the   views held by President Obama, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Representative Peter Welch, whose positions were endorsed by over 69 percent of Vermonters in 2012 elections. Specifically, they strongly support 1) effective delivery of necessary, adequate, and economically productive services and programs; 2) progressive income taxation, especially among the wealthy among us, to finance these services and programs; and 3) investments in long overdue infrastructure upgrades. These investments, in turn, would 1) create thousands of up-scale jobs; 2) generate significant increases in Vermont’s consumer disposable income, particularly among upper income Vermonters, that would allow consumers to purchase corporate products and services; and 3) result in major increases in taxable, personal, and business income to finance government services and programs and/or to repay outstanding government debt.

In conclusion, I’d like to compliment Representatives Lenes and Webb for their outstanding service in behalf of Shelburne residents and tax payers of all income levels. I hope they will convince their fellow Democratic Senators and Representatives and Progressives to oppose Governor Shumlin’s failed Tea Party-like damaging and costly governance.   

 Donald N. Horenstein, Shelburne

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