A proposed energy-efficiency tax on heating oil promises to be a big issue. Already many who would be directly affected, from fuel companies to fuel assistance nonprofits like the Deerfield Valley Community Cares fund, have registered their outcry over the idea.
At this point the energy efficiency tax is just that, an idea. But things in Montpelier seem to take on a life of their own. There will be some, of course, who will say the tax as a way to save money, due to increased energy efficiency. Others will decry the tax as unnecessary, saying the free market has already driven energy efficiency and another tax will burden those who can afford it least. All valid points, and no doubt all will be presented throughout the legislative session. In the end, it’s hard to say what, if any, will come of it. But given the buzz around the state already, there is no doubt this energy efficiency tax concept will be around for a while.
Switching gears, another money issue that may crop up is the education funding and the statewide property tax that pays for a good portion of it. Education funding, specifically Act 60 and Act 68, may be off the radar screen of many, but local legislators are part of a group working to generate data that tries to quantify whether or not the state is getting good value for the education it is paying for. If it turns out there can be a more efficient was to pay for education, it’s a good bet there will be changes to how it gets paid for. Those who are working to change education funding hope their studies can generate some buzz, and get property taxes and education funding back in the legislative discussion.
Other items that may come to the forefront include a bill to put a moratorium on wind energy development. At least one local state senator has said he would support such a moratorium. While the moratorium may be a stretch, given the support for wind-generated energy in many political corners of the state, there is some validity to the argument. Another issue that will certainly be discussed over and over again is the coming change to health insurance. There are fewer than 12 months left to finalize changes to how Vermonters buy their health insurance, and the Legislature and state bureaucracy have much to do. What happens in the first few months of this year could have long-lasting impact.
This promises to be a busy legislative session. We encourage readers to stay informed and stay in touch with local legislators