VTFC Partners with the Gund Institute

VTFC Partners with the Gund Institute

The Vermont Fair Tax Coalition is partnering with the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics on a project that we hope will inspire policy makers to move toward a  “green tax” system for Vermont – one that “taxes bads not goods.”  A goal of the study is to provide the details for a “revenue neutral” tax shift, where the same revenue would be provided by increasing the level of green taxes, taxes on environmentally damaging activities like pollution and waste, while reducing taxes on productive activities such as work and income.

Vermont currently derives nearly 10% of state revenue from taxes that can be categorized as “green”. These include: energy related taxes and fees such as fuel taxes, motor vehicle purchase and use, utilities gross receipts tax, and electric energy tax; air and water pollution taxes and fees; waste taxes and fees; and land-related taxes and fees like the capital gains tax on speculative land sales, and the property transfer tax. The study will attempt to show what a complete green tax shift might look like in Vermont.

Gary Flomenhoft, Research Associate at the Gund Institute, has initiated a new course in “Green Taxes” at the University of Vermont.  VNRC’s Steve Holmes spoke at the inaugural meeting of the class about the work of the Vermont Fair Tax Coalition.  The class will participate in the research project during the fall semester. It is anticipated that the class, along with the VFTC, will present its findings to key decision makers in the Administration and new legislative leaders this winter.  The students research work will be incorporated in the update of the VFTC’s report “Tax Reform that Agrees with Vermont”, originally prepared in 1999, and outlining some steps that Vermont could take to shift toward green taxes.

The Gund Institute, based at the University of Vermont, has recently joined the Coalition as a member.

Founded in 1998 to conduct research and education regarding changes in tax policy to improve the environment, the Vermont Fair Tax Coalition (VFTC) has made green taxes a mainstream policy solution for environmental challenges in Vermont. Founding members are: Vermont Natural resources Council; Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility; Vermont Public Interest Research Group; and Friends of the Earth.

The Coalition’s unique partnership, which has served as a national model for other states working on fair tax issues, is responsible for several victories, including:

ß Repeal of the sales tax exemption for non-agricultural pesticides

ß A renewable energy bill and a requirement for the state to recommend a renewable energy portfolio standard

ß Sales tax exemption for solar hot-water heaters and off-grid systems

ß A comprehensive financial incentive program for downtown development

Having won several important victories in the last two years, the Coalition will focus its effort on remaining policy objectives within its three priority issue areas over the next year: (1) encouraging renewable energy and energy efficiency, (2) reducing water pollution, and (3) fostering sustainable land use.