Column: Vermont Republicans lay out their agenda

By BILL HUFF

For the Valley News

Published: 04-01-2024 3:27 PM

Our state is facing multiple crises, mostly self-inflicted, the result of policies enacted by a Democratic supermajority made up of activists who are either out of touch with the real needs of Vermonters or too wrapped up in their own ideology to care. But we all need to get real about putting positive solutions in place — now — or we are doomed as citizens individually and as a state collectively.

This is the reality:

We cannot afford the crushing tax burden the majority is placing on our household incomes. State spending is both out of control and, despite such unprecedented amounts of money flowing into programs, not working to solve the real problems Vermonters are dealing with every day.

On top of the $200 million plus property tax increase ushered in by Act 127 etc., since obtaining their veto-proof supermajority in 2022, Vermont Democrats have rammed through in just 2023 a new $120 million payroll tax that will take effect this July. They imposed $20 million in higher DMV fees for drivers’ licenses and vehicle registration. They passed the Clean Heat Carbon Tax which is estimated to add 70 cents to every gallon of home heating fuel Vermonters need to buy to keep warm in winter over an unprecedented outcry of citizens. They didn’t care.

This year, 2024, they are poised to pass a Renewable Energy Standard bill estimated to add $1 billion to the cost of our electricity bills. They are looking at increasing the sales tax by as much as $271 million by including groceries, medical products, residential energy, clothing and footwear, and/or expanding coverage to include services. They are looking at a $15-$30 million sweetened beverage tax. New taxes on downloaded software: $20 million. A new 5% gross receipts tax on television streaming services on top of the sales tax: $7-8 million. And a Clean Transportation Carbon Tax on gasoline and diesel on par with the one on heating fuels.

Despite all this taxing and spending, misplaced priorities left many of our homes and businesses vulnerable to extreme weather events, such as the July and December flooding, because Vermont Democrats diverted hundreds of millions of dollars away from investing in preventative adaptation measures and into unrealistic — and unbearably expensive — schemes to change the weather by “lowering our carbon footprint.”

Crime in our once uniquely safe state is now a top issue because the supermajority’s unrealistic belief that defunding our police, allowing criminals to shoplift and commit other crimes without consequence, and fostering a permissive drug culture would somehow make our communities safer. The opposite is true.

Housing is unaffordable because the supermajority piles regulation upon regulation making it literally impossible to build new housing at an affordable price.

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Our schools, despite record spending on a declining student population and an ever-increasing property tax burden, are failing to educate our children. Test scores are dropping, classroom safety is suffering, mental health issues are rising because of the supermajority’s proclivity to adopt every progressive educational fad and to use our classrooms as indoctrination camps instead of focusing on real skills like reading, writing, math, science, and critical thinking.

These are just a few of the biggest issues we face — and must solve. To do so we must “G.E.T. R.E.A.L” about what’s happening, who is responsible, and who is really willing to do what needs to be done to keep our ship of state afloat.

G.E.T. R.E.A.L. is a solemn promise and a positive path forward for our state by Vermont Republicans focused on improving the quality of life of our people. It is a prescription of policy proposals that includes: G.lobal Warming Solutions Act reform, recalibrating the law to reflect realistic and affordable goals; E.ducation reform, refocusing our schools’ mission back to excellence in core subjects; T.ransportation and infrastructure with a priority for fixing our roads; R.egulatory reform to lower the cost of housing; E.nvironmental protection initiatives focused on protecting and preserving our natural resources and landscapes; A.ffordability and tax reform to lower costs for working Vermonters; and restoring L.aw and order in our communities.

We encourage Vermonters who see the need for a new and more affordable direction for our state to learn more about the G.E.T. R.E.A.L program and the candidates who support it in the months between now and Nov. 5. It’s time to get involved. The future of Vermont — and your future in it — is at stake.

Bill Huff, of Thetford, is the Orange County Republican Committee chair. This column is a statement behalf of all the Republican County Committee chairs.