Could have been worse

Last week we promised a "report card" of sorts this week, since the Legislature took a few extra days to resolve its tax and spending plans and pass a budget. But local events trump the state in a community weekly paper, and the park rededication consumed the space that might otherwise have gone to issues like education spending, marijuana decriminalization and death with dignity, among others.

No matter. That's why they invented the infinite space available on the Internet, or the cloud, or whatever the nom du jour is at the moment. By the time you are reading this in print, we should have a more extended commentary available online at

Here's the short version: It could have been worse. While the package of taxes the House of Representatives came up with was a not unreasonable effort to try and thread the needle of new revenue to pay for existing programs as well as proposed newer things like expanded pre-K education, the cluster of proposed taxes, coming on the heels of a substantial increase in the educational property tax, plus the gas tax hike, made this an inauspicious time to contemplate further increases.

While we appreciate in general Gov. Shumlin's concerns about avoiding new "broad based taxes," we remain concerned that it won't be long before such taxes may be needed to pay for the conversion to the new healthcare exchange system coming soon. And a small, but not insignificant amount of the budget - some $54 million - comes from one-time revenue sources, which in theory won't be available next year. And beyond that, we have the looming specter of even greater increases in the educational property tax. Not a pretty picture, that.

At the same time, we think the Legislature did the right thing on "death with dignity" and decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. We realize both measures were controversial and did not meet with overwhelming approval. But, the ultimate decisions were the right ones.

Next year is an election year, and getting hard, complex pieces of legislation through - such as "revenue neutral" tax reform - will be more complicated. For now, that seems far off. But 2014 is shaping up already to be an interesting year, politically speaking.


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