Emerson Lynn: Can Vermont afford David Zuckerman’s ‘progressiveness’?
Give David Zuckerman credit, should he win his bid to become Vermont’s lieutenant governor, he’s made crystal clear his political objectives in advance. And should he be elected, and should his ideals prevail in concert with what will almost surely be a Democratically controlled Legislature, then Vermont will be nudged a little further left than it already is.
In a debate this week with his Republican challenger, Randy Brock, Mr. Zuckerman, running as a Progressive/Democrat, said he supported turning the way we pay for our schools upside down, relying on the income tax instead of the property tax. That way, Mr. Zuckerman said, the rich would pay a higher, and a fairer share.
If the stability of our school system is important to you, Mr. Zuckerman’s proposal should be of concern. The property tax system is relatively stable as a source of income, the income tax system is not. What happens if we experience another deep recession, when earnings and investment income plummet? Do we cut the salaries of our teachers? Cut school a month short? Do we really ratchet up the tax on income to make up the short-fall? Shouldn’t that concern teachers, as well as parents?
Mr. Zuckerman makes the appeal because it sounds progressive, something that should warm the heart of the lower and middle class. The problem with the income tax as the revenue source for our schools is that there are not enough “rich people” to fund the billion dollar plus need. It’s a tax that would need to reach far down to the lower rungs of the income ladder to generate the necessary income.
So, when the cost of education rises, Vermonters will pay more of their income into the state coffers?
That would be the case, although Mr. Zuckerman would argue that this burden would fall to the rich, no one else.
Really? Does anyone actually believe that?
And if the “rich” who are typically closer to retirement than not decide to move elsewhere because they are being singled out to pay more?
Who picks up the difference?
Yep. The rest of us.
If a year or two down the road you start to notice you are being dinged for taxes on services that once were tax-free, then you could think back to Mr. Zuckerman’s campaign thought that it would be a good thing to expand the sales tax from goods to services.
The sales tax, as he says, is regressive. By expanding it to services, the overall sales tax could be lowered. Once again, the lower sales tax would help the lower income, and the new sales tax on services would only be applied to the rich.
Once again, his math is bad. There are not enough services that only the rich use to offset the loss in revenue that would come from reducing the sales tax on goods. What would happen, as we all know, is that we would end up with a sales tax that would rise on goods and services.
But, no matter, even if he is wrong and our income taxes rise and our sales tax spreads to services, we’re still okay because if we legalize pot, an idea he champions, so much money will be washing up on our shores that we’re hardly gonna know how to spend it all.
And we’re buying this?
Add to this litany his support a single-payer health care system, which would have required an enormous increase in the payroll tax. Or the present proposal to expand Dr. Dynasaur to include those up to the age of 26, also a hugely expensive lift. Or his openness to a carbon tax.
To Mr. Zuckerman’s credit, he has not shirked from these positions. He has embraced them in the past, and continues to do so. For that, give him the credit due for being consistent, and not retreating for the sake of political expediency. As a mark of political courage, he deserves notice.
But can Vermont afford David Zuckerman and his progressive agenda?
And other than his commitment to legalize pot, his political platform revolves almost entirely around income distribution in one form or another, with very little thought given as to how Vermont might actually become a more prosperous place to live and work.
That keeps our young in Vermont, how?
And that encourages others to move their businesses to Vermont, how?
And that makes living in Vermont more affordable, how?
Why is it that we define this as progressive?
by Emerson Lynn
Printed in the October 27, 2016 Edition of the St. Albans Messenger