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Tax trouble could hold up Vermont Legislature - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Tax trouble could hold up Vermont Legislature

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

A relatively small gap between financing plans from the House and Senate could push the Vermont Legislature past its scheduled end date. The House and Senate plans vary by about $5 million, but raise new cash in different ways. Those tasked with ironing out the differences are getting closer, but the major sticking points remain.

Tax plans passed by the House and the Senate have about 80 differences. A small contingent of members from both chambers reached agreement on a few dozen of them, but many of the stickiest issues remain, like property tax rates, employer penalties for not offering health coverage and how to tax tobacco products.

"On the money issues I think we're waiting," said Rep. Janet Ancel, D-Calais

The two sides did reach agreement in principle on elements of school district reform, but are not ready to sign off on the deal.

Representatives put many of their cards on the table, often indicating where they would be willing to concede on a range of bills. Senators largely avoided revealing where they may be willing to compromise.

Both sides spent Tuesday arguing for measures the other side hasn't spent much time on. Senators pushed for a higher estate tax rate on the wealthy, a proposed change from the end of last year that didn't survive.

"It's the small ones under our current structure that get hit the hardest, like farms, so we're trying to undo that," said Sen. Tim Ashe, P/D-Chittenden County.

Representatives want to see language indicating intent to move the financing of education from the property tax to the income tax in future years.

"Nobody has been able to come up with a proposal that's really ready to put out there and that's really what we're trying to do," Ancel said.

But proponents concede that regardless of how education is paid for, it will still weigh heavily on taxpayers until costs can be controlled.

Agreement could be hard to find in committee Tuesday. At times, the members even bickered over whether it has been a long session, with a few flip-flopping along the way.

Another day of debate for this measure had not been planned but may be necessary. That may mean a rule suspension if adjournment is truly going to happen Saturday. The Republican minority may be willing to do so for this bill, but likely isn't for non-essential measures.

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