Increase Ski Area Leases to Fund Lake Clean-up

Some of our readers may remember that, in January of this year, our esteemed state auditor, Doug Hoffer released a report on the outdated value of ski area leases in Vermont’s public purse.

The “rent” that developers of ski areas pay to state taxpayers for the use of our land has remained constant for over half a century, while expanding services at those areas have allowed the developers to profit from multiple new sectors, beyond simple lift ticket revenue.

Adjusted for inflation, total sales in all sectors at the resorts have risen by 65% since 2000, but lease payments have fallen by 4%.  Since 2003, property values (not adjusted for inflation) rose by 140% while lease payments rose by a mere 11%

The legislature is currently grappling with a lot of funding issues this session, but the most prominent of these is how to finance clean-up of the lake before the EPA comes in with sweeping mandates.

Republicans are especially resistant to the idea of raising new revenues.

It should be obvious to all but the terminally naive that, even as need grows among the expanding service class of underpaid workers, expectations for twenty-first century infrastructure also grow among the more privileged.  Sooner or later, someone’s going to have to put more money in the kitty.

As Mike pointed out in the diary below, Democrats and Progressives do not like raising taxes any more than do Republicans; we just tend to be less enslaved to party dogma.

When the auditor suggested that an increase in the price of ski area leases might be considered by the Legislature, the suggestion was met with a chorus of “heaven forbid.”   The ski industry, it was argued, is a boon to Vermont’s economy and should enjoy as much encouragement to be fruitful and multiply as we can give it.

I get that; but even a valued industry should be expected to do its part to maintain the valuable Vermont environment.

Certainly, the ski business has a particularly vested interest in the health of that environment; and even though the distance from mountains to Lake Champlain may obscure the connection for some, most should recognize that pressures from ever expanding development and snow-making are having an impact way down hill, even at the Bay.

I understand that a legislator did ask the ski industry nicely to step up and contribute to the lake clean-up fund. This unilateral approach was perhaps not sufficiently persuasive. I am told, he was soundly rebuffed.

It’s time to stop asking for volunteers from the audience.

Increasing the value of ski area leases could go a long way toward funding lake clean-up.

These are our stationary natural resources, from which mostly big out-of-state investors are profiting handsomely.

They aren’t going to fold up the mountains and move them to New Hampshire just because we raise the rent.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

3 thoughts on “Increase Ski Area Leases to Fund Lake Clean-up

  1. extended to other “stationary resources” as well. Groundwater extracted for sale, for example, which Vermont gives away for nothing. We are one of fewer than a dozen states without a severance tax on water or mineral extraction.

    The water is a phenomenally lucrative proposition — it travels by tanker truck, from private Vermont springs whose purity is guaranteed by community custodianship, to bottling facilities just out of state, having been mined for pennies a gallon. It returns in those crappy little 12-oz. plastic containers retailing at $1.00+ that don’t even carry a deposit charge. (Did you know Booth Bros. got into the wholesale business a couple years ago?)

    Consider: H407 of 2011, proposing a withdrawal royalty on the extraction of groundwater for resale (Sharpe, Browning et al) died before it hit the table.

    Consider: the odd little bill (Cheney-sponsored, if I remember correctly) that narrowly missed advancing later in the same session to exempt the company formerly-known as Green Mountain Coffee from a secondary packaging tax for filling K-cups on-site.

    Consider: the increasing ownership of Keurig Green Mountain by Coke,; the stranglehold Coke has on the K-cup business; the synergistic arrangement Coke has entered with Nestle (owners/bottlers of Poland Spring, among others.)

    Consider: the possibility of a really big outfit putting Vermont water mined for free into those damn little bottles on-site, also for free, in quantities sufficient to slake the thirst of people all over the world, and not just in little Vermont.

    And why not? We gave away Connecticut River hydro, natural gas transmission, ridgeline industrial wind, entered smilingly into an abusive nuclear relationship with a thug from the South, and who knows, maybe we’ll get a pipeline full of bitumen across the NEK someday if we play our cards right.

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