Vermont House passes property tax increase - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vermont House passes property tax increase

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The House of Representatives votes in favor of a property tax hike now set for consideration by the Senate.

After two long days of heated debate on the floor, representatives passed a budget bill Friday. The measure would raise residential and commercial rates by 4 and 5 percent respectively. It will be the fourth straight year of tax hikes if the Senate accepts the House version.

"The fact of the matter is that despite extensive efforts on the part of members over time, no better idea has been brought forward," said Rep. Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol.

Proponents say the residential bill comes in 43 percent lower than the Governor's January proposal and sets forth a path to pay for education through income rather than property taxes.

"It has intent language which is aspirational in nature, but it requires nothing," said Rep. Heidi Schuermann, R-Stowe.

But critics say they want more than a promise of change; they want a legal mandate. They say voters issued an informal one this year, by shooting down school budgets and calling property taxes unaffordable in an annual survey.

"The people of Vermont are screaming and it gets louder and louder each time we go to town meeting," said Rep. Francis 'Topper' Mcfaun, R-Barre Town.

A proposal to scrap the state's education funding system in two years and a call to create a new committee to focus solely on education funding didn't receive support.

The majority voiced concern that switching tracks without a defined destination would stymie eight years' worth of brainstorming.

"I ask this body, don't derail that train," said Rep. Jim Condon, D-Colchester.

Proponents of the budget say they'll bring forward a new plan when they're convinced it will work. Opponents say they've heard the promise before and significant reform is well overdue.

Lawmakers say several pressures are driving the need for hikes, including lower property values and rising education costs.

If the proposed House rate sticks, the residential rate will have jumped 13 percent for residential taxpayers and 12 percent for commercial over the last four years.

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