Vermonters First reappears with ads attacking ‘Democratic’ taxes

first_imgby Nat Rudarakanchana February 27, 2013 vtdigger.org Conservative super PAC Vermonters First has resurfaced for the first time since November, with two new ads on WCAX that blame Vermont Democrats for new gas, property and heating fuel taxes.The Vermont Press Bureau’ s Pete Hirschfeld broke the news Wednesday morning.The ads claim that Vermont Democrats are proposing at least $70 million in new tax revenues, levied against working Vermonters. The ads urge constituents to contact legislators and protest the taxes.Tayt Brooks, the group’ s founder, declined to comment.Ryan Emerson, a spokesman for the state’ s Vermont Democratic Party, said the ads are an unsurprising but ‘ disconcerting’ attempt by Vermonters First to lump Democratic politicians together as supporters of new taxes, at a time when Democrats haven’ t reached consensus on these controversial measures.‘ This is another attempt by Vermonters First to muddy the waters,’ Emerson said. ‘ It’ s too early in the session to see where the budget ends up. ‘¦ There hasn’ t been any broad-based agreement on the budget thus far.’‘ The $70 million [figure] may come from the projected budget shortfall,’ Emerson continued. ‘ If that’ s the case, there’ s a number of ways to address that, not just raising taxes.’ To imply otherwise, Emerson said, ‘ is just being dishonest to Vermonters.’At this point, two of the three tax proposals that Vermonters First highlights are still subject to fierce debate, though a 5-cent property tax increase cleared the House last week, backed by a unified Democratic vote over Republican objections.A 4 percent sales tax on gas is a Shumlin administration proposal now under discussion in the House Transportation Committee. A nonpartisan 65-member task force recommended a new excise tax on heating fuels in January.The state currently projects a budget shortfall of $50 million to $70 million in the upcoming fiscal year. A 1 cent property tax raise usually generates about $10 million in revenue, so the new proposal passed by the House would raise about $50 million, and keep track with a 5.5 percent increase in K-12 public education spending. The administration’ s gas tax would raise $28.24 million, or $36.5 million when combined with additional bonding. An excise tax on heating fuels could raise up to $30 million annually, but it’ s unclear whether that proposal will be acted on this session.Gov. Peter Shumlin didn’ t include a heating fuel assessment in his budget address, but later this week the House Natural Resources Committee members will vote on H.216, a bill that may fund energy efficiency by adding 0.5 percent to an established gross receipts tax on some fuels.Democrats don’ t plan to launch a counterattack or buy any advertising of their own, Emerson said.Meanwhile, at a press conference on Wednesday, Shumlin defended his gas tax proposal as a way to avoid sending $60 million in federal funds back to Washington, D.C., and said he’ d craft a bipartisan solution to the state’ s waning gas tax revenues.Asked if he cared about how politically unpopular gas and property tax hikes might be, Shumlin responded: ‘ I didn’ t run for governor to find the path of least resistance. I ran for governor for one reason: I want to create jobs, and prosperity, better income for those better jobs. And I will do anything sensible as governor to make that happen.’‘ I don’ t get up every morning and think: Well, is this going to be popular? Is this not going to be popular? I think: How can I be effective?’Emerson pointed out that because Vermonters First is tackling issues under legislative debate, it needs to formally register as a lobbyist with the Secretary of State, which the group did on late Wednesday afternoon.State statute requires any group lobbying on legislative issues to register within 48 hours of any lobbying.According to WCAX, the ads cost $7,800, and will appear 31 times, from today until March 1.last_img