Tax Forum to explore issues

MANCHESTER - Want more information about how tax policy and the effect on your finances? The Bennington County Democratic Party will be hosting a forum to help understand these complex issues. Tax Policy, Tax Legislation and Your Wallet Current and Future will be held Monday March 31 at 6:30 p.m. at the Park House.

Michael Keane, co-chair of the Bennington County Democratic Party, said this talk in one of three in a series of forums.

"As we, myself and my friend and co-chair Chuck Sweetman planned for 2014, we decided to have educational forums...not ideological and open to everyone," he said.

Instead of just being active during an election and getting voters to the polls, Keane said the party wanted to help citizens understand and be more active in their communities and state.

This forum will feature four speakers: Arlington, Manchester, Sandgate and Sunderland Representative Cynthia Browning, Mich ael Costa, Deputy Director of health Care Finance, Windham County Senator Peter Galbraith and Arlington, Manchester, Sand gate and Sunderland Representative Jeff Wilson.

Keane said this forum will give people a chance to ask questions regarding tax policy, but will also give the speakers a chance to hear the concerns of their constituents.

"This forum encapsulates the things that are important to Bennington County residents, Bennington County business owners and Bennington County tax payers," he said. "People will tell you if you plan to open a business in Vermont or any other state, you need to understand taxes. They create a lot of potential risks."

Because there will be time for discussion, Keane hopes that the elected officials will take the concerns back to Montpelier with them and keep them in mind.

Browning said she hopes to use the forum as a way to discuss some of the issues currently surrounding taxes, especially the changes to property tax rates in the state. She believes that Vermont's tax code should be reworked to make it more fair and effective. For example, Browning would like to see some deductions and exemptions eliminated and instead lower taxes for everyone.

"Using tax credits and exemptions to create policy goals ... you don't know if the credit is really being used," she said. "We really don't know how much those exemptions cost."

Wilson said he does not have a goal for the forum, other than seeing how the discussion plays out.

"I think the two biggest topics will be health care financing in concert with single payer that will come into effect in 2017 and educational finance," he said.

Keane hopes this forum, and the final talk in the series about economic development to help open the dialogue about policy and what is happening in Vermont.

"It's critical for us to emphasize, these are open to everybody, they're not ideological, it's not about Republican or Democratic," he said. "They're informative try to understand living in the state [and] working in the state."

Browning too hopes that people leave the forum more informed.

"My goal is to see it all together, when Vermonters left the forum understanding more...with a sense of the ways to make it better," she said. "People care about property taxes and how new health care will be financed."


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