Hear, hear! Bill Schubart on Taxes

February 25, 2009

Excellent VPR commentary by one of my favorite business leaders, Bill Schubart:

Let me express my bias from the outset so you can either continue or go shovel snow.  I’m a proponent of both government and taxation. I believe in the capacity of government to benefit society and the economy. I believe in taxation. I just want both to function efficiently and accountably. In Vermont today neither do.

Go there and listen to it now, and let me know what you think!


More On Nonprofit Salaries

February 12, 2009

Kudos to Bill Schubart, who wrote a response to the Republican attack on nonprofit salaries. It ran in the Free Press, but in case you missed it, the Center for Media and Democracy (CCTV) has it on their site:

Some high points:

The non-profit sector is not perfect. It needs critical self-analysis in both mission-efficiency and governance. There are opportunities for consolidation of overheads, if not missions. But community-based services have often proved more effective than consolidated state services.

For the Governor and Representative O’Donnell to lash out at the sector that is more efficient at delivering community services than the government only reinforces the increasing sense among more and more Vermonters that this administration has no clear vision for our future. It’s managing its past failures when it should be managing our present and planning for our future.

There is vital work going on in Vermont at the community level. Much of this is under Montpelier’s self-referential radar. It’s driven by volunteers, non-profit agencies and entrepreneurial business leaders who are dealing with their past and laying the groundwork for their future.

What’s So Bad About Taxes, Anyway?

February 5, 2009

I wonder why some people get in such a stew about paying taxes. Thinking about what I get for mine… I feel like I am definitely getting my money’s worth. For my state taxes, I get:

  • state highways built; people to maintain, plow and pave them
  • state police available around the clock
  • historic sites that I can visit
  • state parks, well maintained and staffed
  • conservation camp (my kids love it, and it costs a third of other camps)
  • oversight of things I don’t want to worry about, like bank liquidity, hairdresser’s licenses and restaurant cleanliness

These are just the things I thought of in 2 minutes, besides the obvious ones (programs, elected officials, buildings) that everyone gets all het up about. To be honest, it feels like I get a lot for my money. It’s a pretty good deal, this tax thing. Tons of infrastructure, available to me whenever I may need it, for a relatively small percentage of my income.

Do I think some of these services could be delivered better? Sure, I could suggest ways to improve just about anything. But does it make me resent paying taxes, just because I have an issue with a facet of how they are used?  Nah.

Like Quitting Your Job Because Gas Is Expensive

February 2, 2009

My brilliant brother-in-law, a history teacher who lives in Rutland, described the “revenues are down so we have to slash everything” approach to the budget crisis this way:

“That’s like a guy who says, when the price of gas goes up, that it’s too expensive to drive to work – and so he quits his job.”


5% Pay Cut versus Income Tax Increase

January 30, 2009

Let’s keep going on Rep. O’Donnell’s idea, but expand it.

What if everyone in the whole state – regardless of employer – making over $60k takes a pay cut of 5%? Well, how much is that? That’s a $3,000 pay cut for lots of people (I’ll figure out how many in a future post, when I have time to really fiddle with numbers). And who keeps it? Oh, yeah, their employer.

Now, if *instead* we asked those people making over $60,000 per year to pay $5 more a week in income taxes — how much is that? It’s $260 a year. Per person. And… I’ll bet it would add up to a healthy chunk of money to be added to the revenues we all benefit from.

If Republicans want to force all Vermonters earning over $60,000 to take a pay cut of 5%, that’s their choice.

And if I want to ask Vermonters with household incomes of over $75,000 to make a contribution of around $5 a week, that’s my choice.

Are Nonprofits the Problem?

January 30, 2009

According to VPR, Representative Patty O’Donnell (R) of Vernon wants nonprofit orgs that get state funding to cut staff salaries by 5% – on anyone making over $60k. There are a lot of things wrong with this idea, not least VPR’s headline on their website:

Vernon lawmaker pushes to save prescription drug program

Thursday January 29, 2009
John Dillon
(Host) A Republican lawmaker wants to trim salaries at state-supported non-profit agencies, and use the money to save a prescription drug program.

Representative Patty O’Donnell wants those agencies to reduce top salaries by five percent. If they don’t, she says they shouldn’t’ get state money.

This isn’t about VPharm, it’s about who is “worthy” of getting money from the State and who isn’t. Apparently Rep. O’Donnell thinks that state funding entitles her to delve into management of the organizations that work with the State. Okay, but why should it be any different for for-profit orgs that work with the State? Why shouldn’t everyone making over $60k at Pike Industries, or lobbying for the Governor, be forced to take a cut at our say-so? We give them money – and plenty of it.

This push to force not-for-profit organizations to dance to the State’s tune is a way to take the focus off the Governor’s draconian cuts, and instead imply that the organizations delivering direct service wouldn’t be harmed by the cuts if they would just cut their profligate spending. Yeah, right. We can all count on one hand the number of nonprofits we know that are truly overspending. Usually they are pinching every penny.

106 Signers

January 30, 2009

Thanks to all of you who’ve signed the petition and shared it with your friends!

It’s starting to move farther into the state – seeing names from Putney and Monkton and Newfane and Lincoln. The farther it goes, the farther we’ll go with our shared effort to help Vermonters remember we’re all in this together.

Sign itshare ittell your State Reps and Senators you support it.

Not A Poll

January 30, 2009

Jon Margolis, in his excellent blog Vermont News Guy, had a great post yesterday (well, the posts are great every day) about polls and the difference between scientific and unscientific ones. Worth a read.

He mentioned that the Burlington Free Press was running a poll asking whether folks wanted to cut programs or raise taxes. On their home page, they are asking if lawmakers should cut more or raise taxes (or both).  Cut more is winning:

Burlington Free Press Poll Results 2009-2-29

Burlington Free Press Poll Results 2009-2-29

Maybe you can stop by and register your opinion, eh?

Save Our State

January 28, 2009

I love Vermont
because of her hills and valleys,
her scenery and invigorating climate,
but most of all because
of her indomitable people.
They are a race of pioneers who have almost
beggared themselves to serve others.

– Calvin Coolidge

And we are willing to stand up for others.

2009-02-02. Statewide Rally to support essential services. SOS-Vermont.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Slash Funding

January 28, 2009

I’ve been getting some good feedback on the idea of standing up and voicing support for targeted tax increases to support the social safety net.

I would like to see our ‘safety net’ programs protected: certainly spared from budget cuts; perhaps increased carefully to meet the economic reality Vermonters must now face.  I want budget cuts to come in less critical areas, though I recognize that ALL areas are important.  No cuts are easy, but some are unconscionable, especially now.

-Paul Ralston, Vermont Coffee Company

My friend Paul’s not just smart, savvy and articulate, he brews the best coffee this side of the Mississippi. Go get some. Even if you don’t agree with me on the need for a tax increase, you will agree that Vermont Coffee Company’s Dark Roast is sublime.