Watch for weak excuses

The decision by Qimonda to shift its Williston operations to its facility in North Carolina will undoubtedly lead some to say, "We told you so, VT is anti-business". Here are a few things to keep in mind. Re - personal income taxes: For a median income family (renters, married filing jointly) with Adjusted Gross Income of $50,372, state taxes (excluding statewide education tax) would be $1,951, while in North Carolina the total would be $3,162; a savings of $1,211 (JFO Tax Study, Vol.2, p.7). For a family reporting $80,743 in AGI (homeowners, also MFJ), the VT state tax would be $2,749; NC would be $4,638; a savings of $1,889. Worried about top company executives? With an AGI of $357,934 (homeowners, MFJ), VT would be $23,054 and NC $25,717; a savings of $2,663. Re - property tax: Qimonda is moving the jobs to its facility in Raleigh, NC where property taxes total $1.113 per $100 of value (Raleigh + Wake County). Burlington is 0.67 + the income sensitive educ. tax. Depending on your income and the value of your home, you might or might not pay a little more in VT. But if it's more, it's probably offset by the savings from the income tax. Re - corporate taxes: VT has tax brackets that rise with reported taxable income (6% to 8.9%) so the top rate doesn't kick in unless you report more than $250,000 in taxable income (you have to be pretty big to get to that level). On the other hand, NC has a flat rate of 6.9% regardless of taxable income. In the end (after the creative accounting), the difference will be quite modest in the scheme of things. [BTW - Qimonda lost money the last few years so short-term taxes are not an issue anyway.] Re - electric costs: The Qimonda functions that moved are R&D (commercial offices) so electric costs are not a big part of their overhead. While electricity is cheaper in NC than in VT, the difference as a function of overhead is tiny. Re - workers comp: VT's rates are higher but since premiums are based on the type of occupation and the frequency and severity of injuries, I hardly think it will be much of an issue here. That is, R&D office workers probably have a very low % of work-related injuries (and they are not likely to be serious), so the premiums are probably low and costs as a % of overhead are likely to be pretty small. Qimonda laid off workers and shifted some jobs because they're losing money and need to tighten up. With a critical mass in NC, it made sense to consolidate the remaining jobs there. In my opinion, it has nothing to do with the state's "business climate."

e-Government, or "F"?

Good Jobs First released a nationwide study rating the 50 states on their disclosure of information on lobbying, contracts, and corporate subsidies. Vermont earned a failing grade on both lobbying disclosure and subsidies. Vermont's report card is available here. This is a good reality check on the much-hyped e-State initiative.  One wonders about the current administration's priorities:  instead of clear, accessible information on the money spent to influence policy, and the public money given away to the private sector, we have sold off the state's web site and upgraded our tony rest stops to include wifi.

Stop the Sale Update

The Public Service Department conducted its last hearing on the proposed sale of Verizon's land lines to Fairpoint last week. On October 30th, members of the coalition opposed to the sale, including the CWA and IBEW, delivered 5,000 postcards to NH Governor Lynch (through a representative) from NHers opposed to the sale. On November 12, the coalition will hold a similar event at the Vermont Statehouse, delivering a wheelbarrow-full of postcards to Lt. Gov Dubie, who will be there in place of Gov. Douglas.
Will thousands of postcards from Vermonters have more of an effect that hundreds of Vermonters showing up at the Statehouse to push for impeachment? Would Douglas have received the postcards in person if the wheelbarrow was wrapped in a red ribbon?
The Department laid out 56 conditions that should be met before the Public Service Board approves the sale.  A decision from the PSB is expected in December.  More information on the Stop the Sale coalition can be found on their web site.  The event/press conference takes place next Monday at 1pm on the Statehouse steps.

Verizon employees rally against sale

June 3, 2007, the Burlington Free Press, by Lauren Ober

"Stop the sale" has become the rallying cry for the hundreds of communications workers throughout New England whose jobs are on the line if the potential sale of Verizon to a North Carolina company goes through.

About 200 union employees and their supporters descended on Burlington's Waterfront Park on Saturday to protest FairPoint Communications, Inc.'s, bid to buy Verizon New England Inc.

Busloads of Verizon employees, most of them members of the Communications Workers of America or International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers unions, arrived from Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire to listen to about a dozen speakers slam the potential sale. If public officials in one of the three states in which Verizon operates do not approve the sale, the deal falls flat.

"We want to get the folks of Vermont to understand what's going on if this subservient company takes over," said Meg Collins, a Verizon employee who works in Taunton, Mass. "Vermont will be left behind."

[Full Story]

House gives preliminary OK to union bill

March 23, 2007, the Burlington Free Press, by Terri Hallenbeck

MONTPELIER -- The House gave preliminary approval Thursday to legislation that would make it easier for unions to organize state employees.

"The House has taken a critical and positive step to level the playing field for those Vermonters who want to bargain collectively with their employer," said Jennifer Henry, president of the United Professions/AFT Vermont union.

The bill -- H.353 -- allows formation of a union if more than 50 percent of employees sign an authorization card, instead of going through a longer process that includes a formal, secret vote.

[Full Story]

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