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vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

Political notes from Free Press staff writers Terri Hallenbeck, Sam Hemingway and Nancy Remsen



Something's rank about tax list

Forbes magazine was the latest to come out with a list ranking states’ tax burdens. Vermont landed on the top.

Gov. Jim Douglas cited it last week as an example of why there’s no room for more taxes.
You can argue whether raising taxes now is good or bad, but let’s clarify Vermont’s number one ranking.

The Forbes story says the rankings came from adding up a bunch of state taxes and fees and dividing by the population. Here’s just one of several problems with that method: It doesn’t include county taxes.

Vermont has virtually no county government. Almost all the services that county governments in other states provide are provided by state government here, and paid for by state taxes.

Back when I was a pup of a reporter, I covered the Chenango County Board of Supervisors in central New York. The board wrestled with such issues as whether to build a new county jail, how to pay for social services, how many probation officers it could afford.

All those functions are part of state government here. Reporter Matt Woolsey did not return a call asking for clarification about what went into the tax ranking.

A study by the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office a few years ago showed how complicated it is to compare taxes in one state vs. another. Complicated doesn’t work for nice, neat top 10 lists, though.

You throw those expenses into what New Yorkers and their counterparts in all other states with full county governments are paying in taxes and the rankings are likely to change. Vermont might still be high, but tops? We reserve that for rankings of best places to live.

- Terri Hallenbeck

I hope you will keep calling the Forbes reporter to get the clarification on the county taxes. I'm curious.
All these types of comparisons are apples to oranges. Not only do they typically leave out taxes from local governments, but they also leave out other taxes that are specific to certain items and locations, like excise tax on cars and tax on food.
When you were a pup reporter, did you think to measure tax burden as a function of income? I think you'll find our burden is particularly high given the median incomes in Vermont.

The point is not whether we are #1 or #5, it is that we are among the most taxed states.
Your article is COMPLETELY intellectually dishonest. It is actually pretty easy to compare VT to other states. Just take the line items and compare.... The point you make about county taxes does not hold water. I have worked in real estate here in Vermont for about 10 years. In that time I have had COUNTLESS discussions with seniors considering a move to VT. But time and time again they compared taxation here to other states and end up in NH or FL. I have heard the same story HUNDREDS of times, and actually spent time sitting down with those people to look at their figures, because hell, I was trying to sell homes in VT. If there was a way to disprove them, I wouldve found it because selling VT real estate is my bread and butter.
If the point isn't that we are #1 why does the governor constantly remind us that we are in fact #1. Whoops, we aren't #1 and yet the governor continues to insist we are.

Does that make him a liar. I mean Shumlin was a liar for misstating a % for a particular fact so this must mean Douglas is one too.

And to this point,

"When you were a pup reporter, did you think to measure tax burden as a function of income? I think you'll find our burden is particularly high given the median incomes in Vermont."

If you go down this road you would also have to measure cost of living and across all income levels not just a median to obtain an accurate understanding of the sitution. but that is besides the point because you aren't interested in accuracy you are interested in the political spin of Vermont being #1.
"your article is COMPLETELY intellectually dishonest."

Ok, well if you have run the numbers every which way, POST THEM! Post a line by line comparison of the State, county and local taxes and state fees for NH and FL compared to state and local taxes and fees for Vermont. These numbers should be at your finger tips if you have worked with them so regularly.

Thank you for doing this because I think it will enlighten us all.
Was there a particular point about dragging the Governor into this? Many of us are against more taxes.
"It is actually pretty easy to compare VT to other states. Just take the line items and compare"

Not really because GEO's don't have the same line items. Even from different GEO's from one state, the line items don't match up. In fact, you will be technically challenged to try to describe the difference in tax burden across some states because the tax structures are just too complicated and it would take too much time to be thorough.

So when you make a general comparison between two states, what happens is you end up using data that doesn't represent any real condition found in either of the states.
this was sent to me as "News" When it is opinion.

It also is BS. Having lived in New York I know the Counties do almost nothing. Things are done my towns and ciies. In some other states thing are done by county, but that that the place of town and city Government not State.
I think the State Police should forget about policing local communities. They can handle it on their own. The county cops can anyway. Right?
To those of you who would like me to back up my comment with some statistics... Here you go from CNN (hardly a bastion of conservative ideology):
I too lived in upstate NY.
The county government does do a LOT of things and most of its revenue is property tax - and sales tax.
You have to compare apples to apples.
Property taxes paid to whoever (county, town or state) are still a tax amount to be paid.
Sales taxes the same thing.
NY has a STATE sales tax of 4%
Adding county sales taxes may bring the sales tax burden to 6% or more, but it is a tax.
It IS an intellectually (or uninformed) argument.
Vermont is still number 1 in total tax burden - whether I pay it to the county, town or state, I'm still paying it.
"Was there a particular point about dragging the Governor into this? Many of us are against more taxes."

Dragging, that's just down right hilarious. Stick a mic in front of Douglas he will reflexively cite FALSE statistics on how Vermont is the #1 taxed state in the country. Where VT actually ranks is very relevant to this conversation. By falsely claiming we are #1, #4 or # 45 it greatly changes the perception of our overall tax burden and how to deal with the situation. If the Governor would have an honest debate about this situation we may not even be having this conversation.
Not BS. California, for example, has a strong political presence and many services are offered at county level as is so in other states. The point is well taken.
"To those of you who would like me to back up my comment with some statistics... Here you go from CNN (hardly a bastion of conservative ideology):"

You may be right about CNN but you pass this along like it was their report. All they did was regurgitate a report from the VERY conservation Tax Foundation. This is really besides the point because you claimed to have done all this research on the issue. If you have and you have all these statistics to prove your point why is the only "fact" you can point to in order to back up your claims another right wing anti all tax think tank statistic? Additionally, your original claim was that it is easy to compare taxes and the report you reference is actually a comparison of % of taxes per capita income.

sorry, but you are obviously just trying to play politics with this issue and quite frankly not playing very well.
To be fair and balanced...

None of these tax burden comparisons are accurate because states have diffeerent ways of collecting - from the types of taxes, to the percentages, to names of taxes or in siome cases fees, to the state county, and local collections.

What would be very insightful would be to look at the TOTAL of all taxes/fees.

For instance, in Vt you pay a 6% purchase and use tax on a car and then a yearly $60 registration fee.

Some states charge a purchase and use tax, then a "property or value tax" on a yearly basis, as well as an annual registration.
The pinnacle of absurdity- the normally liberal information news channel is CNN- except when they obtain information from a conservative organization- then the info is crap and obviously erroneous!
What do those people (potential investors in VT) know about taxes anyway? Certainly more than the anonymous poster- those people can count their money and at the end of the year they know they have more when they don't move to Vermont.
BTW- the Governor does not spend the money- the legislature does. He can give them a budget but they approve/disappove of the spending.
Spoken like a good soldier or should I say appointee of the Governor!
New, you are correct, pinnacle of absurdity. Don't address the facts of the issue, make it about CNN or "liberals". So Republican of you. Crap information is crap information regardless of where it comes from. Oh and please point out where anyone on this blog stated everything CNN reports is right? Don't drag your assumptions into this especially when no one has even remotely made the claim you are assurting.

Not too mention you really don't know what you are talking about because the report was from a conservative think tank not business people and certainly not business people looking to invest in Vermont.

If you have the attention span please address the FACTS or the lack there of from what this post is truly about. It is so humorous how NONE of you have actually been able to come up with the information you claim to have. Just once I would like for you right wingers to actually stay on topic and prove your claims.

BTW - the governor writes the original budget and then the house passes a budget and then the senate but it originates in the governor's office. and to suggest that the governor doesn't spend the money when he provides the intial budget which in the past two years has included $50 million for selling the lottery and $63 million in property tax increases is just, what was the word you used, oh right, absurd!
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