In This Case, I Wish We Were Doomed To Repeat History

( – promoted by Sue Prent)


House lawmakers rejected an attempt to stave off cuts in the federal food stamp program before approving a $1.44 billion tax bill Thursday.

Rep. Paul Poirier, I-Barre, proposed raising taxes for people in the state’s two highest income brackets to collect an additional $10 million to fund the 3SquaresVT nutrition assistance program. His effort was defeated on a roll-call vote of 115-28.


During debate Poirier noted that one of six of our fellow Vermonters relies on some form of aid to feed themselves, and over one-third of those are kids.  The average food assistance benefit?  243 bucks, before SNAP was cut.

So Poirier proposed we raise top marginal rates for 2014 and 2015: from 8.80% to 9.5% and from 8.95% to 9.95%.  Naturally, Republicans argued that the wealthiest Vermonters “already pay their fair share.”  It's a common canard which ignores the simple fact that Poors and Middle Class Chumps don't account for more of our aggregate revenue because they make substantially less money.

Really, do people not remember the 90s?  Snelling and Dean essentially level-funded the government's essential services during that recession. 


Note what Snelling said back then:

We cannot and will not set lower standards for the education of our children, for the health of the population, for assistance to the troubled, jobless, or homeless, or for protection of the environment.

Former Speaker of the Vermont House, Ralph Wright adds:

If someone had asked what was the first thing Gov. Snelling and I agreed upon it was: ‘This deficit will not be placed on the backs of the poor, the elderly, or the children.’ And then we raised taxes.

Yup, then Snelling raised taxes:

He hiked the sales tax rate from 4 percent to 5 percent with a plan to sunset the hike in 1993. He significantly boosted Ver- mont’s piggyback tax rate. Under Vermont’s tax system, citizens pay a share of their federal tax liability to the state govrnment. In the late 1980s, the piggyback tax rate was 25 percent. Instead of the traditional flat rate, Snelling made the tax system more progressive by introducing a 31 percent tax rate on federal income tax liability over $3,400 and a 34 percent rate on federal income tax liability over $13,100. Everyone else paid a 28 percent tax rate.

Why is something like this not even on the table today?  

Austerity has been shown to be a failure all over the world, including at home.  And we have a Vermont-grown example of policy that helped us climb out of a nasty recession whilst preserving the safety net but a generation ago, well within the political memories of those now serving in Montpelier.  Is it willful ignorance or just a lack of compassion that prevents legislators from borrowing from a successful bipartisan playbook?


NB: edited to rely less on VTDigger quote and to expand analysis. 

8 thoughts on “In This Case, I Wish We Were Doomed To Repeat History

  1. Burke of Brattleboro

    Cross of Winooski

    Dakin of Chester

    Davis of Washington

    Fay of St. Johnsbury

    French of Randolph

    Haas of Rochester

    Hooper of Montpelier *

    Krowinski of Burlington

    Martin of Wolcott

    McCormack of Burlington

    McCullough of Williston *

    McFaun of Barre Town

    Michelsen of Hardwick

    Moran of Wardsboro

    O’Sullivan of Burlington

    Pearson of Burlington

    Poirier of Barre City

    Ryerson of Randolph

    South of St. Johnsbury

    Stevens of Waterbury

    Till of Jericho

    Toleno of Brattleboro

    Townsend of South Burlington

    Weed of Enosburgh

    Wizowaty of Burlington

    Woodward of Johnson

    Zagar of Barnard

  2. According to Vermont Public Radio, my representative Anne Donahue defended her vote by pointing out that Vermont’s wealthiest residents already shoulder a disproportionately high share of government spending. “I think that helps demonstrate the degree to which our tax code is progressive,” she said.  In so doing, Rep. Donahue repeated a tiresome straw man argument about tax policy.

    The percentage of government spending shouldered by the wealthy does not necessarily reflect the progressivity of the tax structure.  For example, 10% of a population each earning $1 million and paying only 1% in income taxes would still shoulder a greater percentage of overall government expenses than the remaining 90% of the population earning only $10,000 yet paying 10% of their income in taxes.

    The reason the wealthiest Vermonters shoulder a greater percentage of government expenses is that they have the money.  More and more of the money, in fact, because the wealthiest Vermonters’ share of total state income has increased dramatically over the last 30 years.

    And it’s well documented that while Vermont’s income tax structure is reasonably progressive, the overall tax structure is regressive because of sales and property taxes and the capital gains exclusion.

    As a middle-income state employee I gave a little more by accepting a pay cut during the recession to help ease Vermont’s budget difficulties.  I fail to see any reason why the wealthiest in this state cannot likewise give a little more so that children don’t have to go hungry.


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