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