Burlington City Council postpones action on wealth tax

Published: Jun. 2, 2020 at 1:28 AM EDT
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The Burlington City Council Monday voted to postpone action on a charter change that supporters say would increase taxes on the wealthy and address economic inequities highlighted by the pandemic.

The resolution states the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the city’s finances are insufficient without new sources of revenue generated from people who are best equipped to help dig the city from that financial hole.

The resolution's author, Perri Freeman, P-Burlington City Council, believes that money should come from the city’s 12% of residents who make $125,000 a year.

But a lot of people in Burlington are saying no to more taxes. Some of Burlington's wealthiest community members are not happy with a proposed new tax.

"If this tax goes through, I think it’s going to be time to look elsewhere, I don’t need to live in Burlington," said T.J. Jeminson and Sean Kelly during public comments.

The “Just Economy” charter change proposal calls for the creation of a municipal income tax for anyone making at least $125,000 a year. It also would create a luxury sales tax on houses and businesses worth at least $500,000. People critical of the resolution say they think it needs more research.

“I believe this resolution has had little to no public input at this point, no financial assessment or proper vetting and I believe that its impact would worsen our housing affordability crisis," said Leslee MacKenzie.

Some people expressed concerns that higher taxes will reduce the city’s ability to attract or retain homeowners and businesses. Others said the resolution feels like an attack on those making six figures.

"This tax feels very discriminatory," Matt Hurlburt said. "I feel like it’s furthering class issues. It feels shameful riding on the heels of COVID-19.”

A few people expressed their support saying they think the tax would be a great way to address economic disparities.

But Democratic councilors said the proposal is confusing and needs more work, research and discussion. They also agreed with the public comments that it would drive people and businesses away from Burlington.

The council voted 10-2 to postpone a vote until their June 15 meeting.

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