By Rep. Joan Lenes
The End of Session Report that Rep. Kate Webb and I write at the close of each legislative session will be running in the coming weeks’ issues of the Shelburne News. We also give an overview at town meeting time in order to give a midsession status report. It is of utmost importance to me to keep you updated as to what I see happening in Montpelier and let you hear about the process that helps inform my decision-making. I say that as I write this article because what I write today is still in flux as we return Monday and Tuesday of this week to complete this 2013 session. This week has already been budgeted in the 18-week session allocation and is not costing Vermont taxpayers more money.
One of the first pieces of advice I received as a Representative was to listen to all sides of an issue and get the background information before reacting. I find this particularly helpful at this time of the session when so much can change. Conference Committees are meeting and conversations are occurring. The media is writing headlines and everyone has an opinion. My style is to talk with leadership of all parties and to those directly involved with those working on a particular issue. I get the most accurate information, give them my input, and any of yours that I have received, and work toward a fair and equitable solution. At this time, the last agreement that keeps us from adjournment is the tax bill.
Taxes are always controversial and there are often as many opinions and views as there are people discussing them. It has certainly been the case over the last few months. As I sit here today I am happy to report that so many of the taxes talked about will not go into effect. There is no tax on satellite television, although cable subscribers are currently taxed. There is no candy or sweetened beverage tax, although many of you wrote in favor of that. There is no tax on clothing, I heard from one merchant. There is no additional cigarette tax, although smoking comes at a very high cost to all of us. We did raise a tax on gas in order to draw down $56 million in federal dollars that are helping to pave our roads, repair our bridges, and get our state up to or in better shape than before Tropical Storm Irene conditions.
Tuesday morning discussions at Breuggers Bagel have been lively and I appreciate your ideas, opinions, and conversations. I am glad to have a gathering place in the community and thank Brueggers for welcoming us and letting us have such a place. This past Tuesday, May 14 was our last time to meet for this session. I am always available off session and you can reach me at (802) 999-9363, 985-8515, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.