Vt. lawmakers fuel controversy with proposed tax on heat - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. lawmakers fuel controversy with proposed tax on heat

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

As the bitter winter continues on, Vermonters continue to crank up the heat. The Committee on Natural Resources and Energy is proposing a bill to help low-income families keep that heat inside.

"You're talking not just about efficiency to reduce emission into the environment, but you're talking about human lives, you're talking about health and welfare and impact on the economy," said Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier.

The two-part bill focuses on providing weatherization for low-income families, as well as reducing Vermont's carbon footprint.

"The focus of the bill is efficiency-- it's thermal efficiency. It's providing more resources for low-income Vermonters because they are losing resources. If we don't do something, we are going to go backwards, not forward," Klein said.

However, this bill comes with a price-- a proposed 10- to 12-cents per gallon tax on heating oil. Matt Cota of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association argues this tax is not what the state needs.

"Any tax, whether you create an excise tax or carbon tax, any tax that is created on heating fuel is by its nature a regressive tax and it hurts low-income Vermonters more than upper income Vermonters," Cota said.

The committee says the tax will raise an estimated $16 million that will go to weatherizing low-income housing across the state. Klein says that the idea is to prevent fuel waste by heating homes more efficiently. Klein argues that Vermonters need to spend money for energy conservation. Cota disagrees and says the marketplace will do that, and since 1970 heating oil consumption has decreased over 60 percent.

The bill will tax an additional 1 percent on heating oil, electricity, dyed fuel, propane and natural gas.

Klein says his committee is also considering paying for weatherization by taxing break-open tickets and plastic water bottles. That heat tax bill could go before the full House by the end of the week.

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