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readers may remember that, in January of this year, our esteemed state auditor, Doug Hoffer released a report on the outdated value of ski area leases in Vermont’s public purse.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