Against Article 12
While the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce supports downtown improvements and encourages marketing downtown, it does not endorse the special added property tax on buildings in the downtown district, as proposed in Montpelier’s Article 12 for town meeting.
The Chamber is opposed to local option taxes — additional taxes approved by voters to tax something other than their own property. Quite simply, it is far too easy for voters to approve a tax that voters themselves will not be required to pay.
The Chamber — and many businesses within the district — urge Montpelier voters to vote no on Article 12.
Those who believe they will benefit, directly or indirectly, from marketing and promotional programs should fund them voluntarily. Voluntary contributions and the programs they fund will then continue only so long as the contributors find them beneficial.
Taxes, on the other hand, often outlive their purpose or effectiveness, and take on a life of their own.
Let me cite a distant example, but one that bears directly on point. Nearly one dollar in every five spent on wine or liquor in Pennsylvania today was originally intended to rebuild Johnstown, Pa., from a flood that happened almost 80 years ago.
As reported in the Times Observer of Warren, Pa.: “In 1936, a flood demolished Johnstown in southwestern Pennsylvania. The state legislature decided to raise the estimated $41 million needed to rebuild the community by slapping an emergency tax on alcohol. The state reached its financial goal six years later in 1942. But the tax remains in place, conveniently funneling hundreds of millions of dollars annually into Pennsylvania’s general fund.”
If Montpelier’s downtown improvements are a benefit to residents and will pay dividends to the general citizenry, then the money should come from general fund appropriations or be placed on the ballot as a special item to be funded by citywide property taxes.
While the Chamber supports the goals, it cannot support the proposed method of raising the funds. Good intentions don’t guarantee good policy.
Please don’t open the flood gates; Vote no on Article 12.
Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce
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