Bill would have state collect data on gas prices, market

April 2, 2013; Nancy Remsen; Burlington Free Press

MONTPELIER— Gasoline prices in the Burlington area ranged from $3.57 cents per gallon of regular to $3.79 on Tuesday — with an average price of $3.65 which was below the statewide average of $3.70 and close to the national average of $3.63.

More typically the fuel prices in Chittenden County have been higher than other parts of the state over the past year, which is why Rep. Christopher Pearson, P-Burlington, urged the House Transportation Committee to consider his bill calling for the collection of data on fuel pricing, mergers and market share.

The committee held hearings in January on gasoline price differences.

“There are a lot of theories about why our gas prices seem to be inflated,” Pearson told the panel. “This is trying to peel back the layers of this mystery of why we pay more.”

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Push to divest fossil fuel companies from Vermont college endowments is gaining momentum

February 21, 2013; Audrey Clark; VTDigger

It’s not just schools that are being pushed to divest. lists four off-campus campaigns: the United Church of Christ, California Teachers Pension Fund, the city of Seattle, and the state of Vermont.

Reps. Christopher Pearson, P-Burlington, and Kesha Ram, D-Burlington, and 23 others introduced a bill on Feb. 14 to come up with a plan to divest state retirement funds from fossil fuel companies within three years. The bill is now under consideration by the Committee on Government Operations.

State retirement investments were worth nearly $1.4 billion as of June 2011, according to the state website — much bigger than many college endowments.

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Vermont Economic Snapshot

Progressives and Democrats offer alternatives to governor's money raising plan

February 15, 2013; Nancy Remsen; Burlington Free Press

For a growing chorus of lawmakers, however, the ends don’t justify the means. In particular, the Reach Up cap and the proposal to shrink the Earned Income Tax Credit to help pay for the child-care investment have come under fire.

“While we applaud his priorities, many of us across the state find his funding proposals detached from the economic reality of our neighbors,” Rep. Christopher Pearson said at a news conference Thursday where he and about a dozen other lawmakers unveiled nine alternative revenue options that would generate about $50 million.

“For those of us who have been critical, we thought it would be important to articulate some alternatives,” Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden, said.

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Press Release: Progressive alternative funding sources

Progressives have pushed for a greater investment in childcare, higher education, student loan forgiveness, weatherization and clean energy for years, so it was encouraging to hear Governor Shumlin promote these initiatives in his state budget.

While we applaud his priorities, many of us across the state find his funding proposals detached from the economic reality of our neighbors. They are an insult to the working families of our state.

Take a look at this snapshot provided by Thom Kavet in his annual revenue summary prepared for JFO, which shows the change in income by income class for Vermonters over the past 10 years.

2001-2011 Income Growrth

The median household income in Vermont is $53,000. That is, half of Vermont households are on the top half of this chart and half are on the bottom. Given that, I think most reasonable people would look at this and conclude that any new sources of revenue have to come from the top half.

Gov. Shumlin seems to think it’s those living in the bottom half who should pay up.

Today, we present nine revenue options that draw from those on the top half of this chart. We present a package totaling $50 million and hope it will stimulate discussion and inspire legislative leaders to find ways to advance Shumlin’s priorities without hurting those who can least afford it.

Progressive Revenue Menu

1.    Bank Franchise Tax (pay higher of BFT or corporate income)     $5.0 million
       currently 0.000096 of the average monthly deposit
       banks have expanded into services, etc

2.    Tax capital gains as ordinary income                                       $11.0 million
        currently exempt first $5,000

3.    Property Transfer Tax per 0.25% value > $500K                         $1.5 million
       adds 3rd tier for high-value properties

4.    Estate Tax – reduce exemption from $2.75 to $1 million             $1.9 million
       brings into line with neighboring states

5.    Income Tax Top Bracket Collapse                                           $20.0 million
       brings actual rates closer to marginal rates

6.    Vermont Alternative Minimum Tax                                          $1.0 million
       parallel’s federal structure

7.    Escheat (unclaimed bottle deposits)                                      $1-2 million
       reclaim the nickels

8.    Natural Resources Extraction Taxes
       Groundwater extraction 28 cents per gallon                          $4.5 million
       Earth Resources extraction 2 cents per cubic yard
       We are one of only 11 states without one

9.    Eliminate Sales Tax Exemptions
       Bottled Water                                                                    $1.0 million
       Clothing > $100                                                                  $2.2 million
       We don’t need bottled water
       People buying $120 sweater can afford $7.20

Margolis: Shumlin might have to start thinking about Plan B

February 14, 2013; Jon Margolis; VTDigger

Not that anybody else’s plans are meeting with a warmer reception. Just before Shumlin’s press conference, a groups of Progressive and Democratic lawmakers offered an alternative – raise the money for Shumlin’s education proposals by increasing taxes on the wealthy.

Standing in front of a poster showing that, when adjusted for inflation, the income of most Vermonters earning less than the median income fell, while the income of the wealthy rose as much as 156 percent (for the few earning $1 million or more), Rep. Chris Pearson, a Burlington Progressive, said modest increases in the bank franchise tax, the estate tax and income taxes on the wealthiest earners would raise enough money to finance Shumlin’s education initiatives and still maintain the present EITC level and the Reach Up rules.

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