Posted by Charity on March 27th, 2006

A few months ago, the Burlington Free Press started running a column by Ed Shamy. It is usually very amusing and somewhat irreverent, but always enjoyable. I can’t say that about much in that paper.

On Thursday, March 23, he wrote a column comparing the House vote to raise the gas tax by 4 cents (6 cents on diesel) to a Republican proposal to entice mover-makers to come to Vermont to make their movies by exempting 25% of their Vermont-earned income from Vermont income taxes.

He opens by asking who deserves a tax break and sets the following scene:

Our first candidate is a single mom, hustling homeward at dusk from her thankless and lousy-paying factory job. Before picking up her youngsters at their after-school program, she stops at a convenience store to buy bread so she can wake up before dawn to make the kids’ school lunches. While there, she pumps gas into her 1990 Plymouth Horizon and tearfully shakes her head at the price of fuel. It has risen again.

Candidate No. 2 is a well-tanned dandy just arrived from Beverly Hills. He carries in his shoulder bag a lhasa apso with a ribbon in its hair. He wears an ascot. Beneath his pencil-thin, David Niven-esque moustache, he clenches in his pearly whites a cigarette in a holder.

We can’t help but feel bad for the mom, but this is not really a fair comparison.

First, by juxtaposing the gas tax increase with the name of the Republican legislator who supports the movie-making tax incentive, one might imply that the Republicans are the ones raising the gas tax. That is not the case. In fact, the Republicans were, for the most part, fighting the gas tax.

Second, it is not as if they are raising the gas tax in order to give a tax break to Hollywood fat-cats. They are completly unrelated – especially since a big budget movie has not been made here since 1999 (and this tax break would only apply to movies with budgets exceeding $1 million).

The other thing is the income tax break itself. I am not sure if I support the idea, but I understand the logic of it. Right now, we have no big movies being made here, so what is the income tax gain from that income? Zero – there is no income. If we did manage to lure movie makers here, we would reap income tax revenues on 75% of the income made here. Isn’t 75% of something better than 0% of nothing?

I get rather annoyed at the constant attempts by the press to unfairly paint Republicans as only caring about the rich. I would like to remind Mr. Shamy and the rest of you that the Democrats have such a solid majority in the State Legislature that you cannot blame anything on the GOP this year.

11 Responses to “Tax breaks for the rich?”

  1. James Dwinell touched on the gasoline tax: “This was the Douglas plan, returning the money to its rightful owner, the Transportation Fund. Common sense.”

    I’m embarrassed to say that I hadn’t realized that the phrasing of the City of Burlingto ballot question regarding use of educational funds for other purposes really meant returning funds previously borrowed to the transportion fund. It makes you wonder how they arrived at the phrasing of a ballot question. And, shame on me for not delving a little deeper into this ballot question before voting.

  2. Obviously the comparison between the gas tax and the filmmakers’ tax break is completely ridiculous. But Shamy’s column is just a form of simple entertainment, like Peter Freyne’s. No one should be looking to it for any kind of insightful analysis.

    If there’s any offense to be taken, it seems to me it would be because he’s almost lampooning the type of laughable reasoning that certain D/P politicians have attempted to foist on the public in the last few years.

  3. I just want to expand on what the first anonymous comment says. I wanted to clarify that the tax was not the Douglas plan. The tax was the Democrats’ answer to the Douglas plan.

    Here is what Dwinell had to say (from the link above):

    COMMON SENSE

    Though the Valley News, the Burlington Free Press, the Herald of Randolph, and others argued in favor of transferring money out of the Education Fund, money which had been “robbed” in earlier Democrat Days from the Transportation Fund, Speaker Symington, D-Jericho, nevertheless pushed the gas tax through the House.

    “The Education Fund is in good shape. Judging from the condition of some of the state’s roads, the same cannot be said for the Transportation Fund,” wrote the Valley News. This was the Douglas plan, returning the money to its rightful owner, the Transportation Fund. Common sense.

    With the Democrats in control, and thus calling all the shots, the House rejected the governor’s plan in favor of the gas tax hike.

  4. Seems to me that it’s an apples and oranges scenario. Talk about illogical comparisons.

    He might as well just say “The Republicans (from the Dark Side) want to take everything away from the poor so that rich people from Hollywood will come here and take all the money, ruin our way of life, destroy the atmosphere by smoking…and kill baby seals”

  5. Charity said: “I would like to remind Mr. Shamy and the rest of you that the Democrats have such a solid majority in the State Legislature that you cannot blame anything on the GOP this year.”

    I beg to differ, but who controls Congress? The Oval Office? The Supreme Court? These governmental branches are quite intertwined with state matters, I’m afraid.

    Perhaps you meant to say that the VT GOP cannot be labled as responsible for this year’s gas tax which is only half true (pressure from our GOP governor sure doesn’t allow for talk of alternatives like an income tax – a fairer means by which to fund government).

    In any case, the GOP on the whole is quite culpable in every state’s budgetary woes. So respectfully, Lady MacBeth, your hands are not so clean.

  6. The post was about the Vermont gas tax. Vermont Democrats pushed it, Vermont Republicans pushed against it.

    “pressure from our GOP governor sure doesn’t allow for talk of alternatives like an income tax”

    To be specific, the House’s Dem-led vote of 84-55 rejecting reconsideration of the bill is what directly disallowed talk of alternatives like an income tax.

    http://www.wcax.com/global/story.asp?s=4663948

    “But reconsideration gave the Republicans one more chance to remind the public, Democrats were leading the charge to raise the gas tax. It’s something they will remind voters right up until election day.”

  7. The governor strong-arms the legislature into not even considering legislation that is not to his agreement (i.e. last year’s health care solution). Under Gaye Symington, the goal will be a compromise and alternatives rather than pushing back on the gov. And ultimately, he will have the power to veto this budget if he is so concerned over the gas tax.

    Likely, though, he will sign it then turn the tables and say it’s the Dems fault for approving a gas tax. The whole time, of course, the public will miss seeing how the governor essentially approved it as well by signing the bill (with a little help from WGOP, your quote source).

  8. “And ultimately, he will have the power to veto this budget if he is so concerned over the gas tax.”

    So you honestly believe that vetoing the least contentious budget in anyone’s memory over a 4 cent gas tax is a viable option? Wow.

    “Dems fault for approving a gas tax”

    Well, it was. Would you prefer that he lie?

    “WGOP”

    Oh look, it’s a Freyne-iac!

  9. First of all, the comparison that was made in the Free Press was not a fair one. Anyone with half a brain, and half a heart would say the woman in the first example deserves a tax break.

    I spoke with Governor Douglas on Sunday, and in regards to the gax tax, he realizes our roads are in a terrible state of disrepair, but would like to see an alternative other than the gas tax. His feeling is gas prices are high enough right now, why add to the problem? (I can’t remember what his alternatives are, and I am too lazy to grab my work bag out of the car.)

    Charity, you are correct in that the gas tax is the idea of the Democrats. (Darn, why can’t we blame the Republicans?? :-) )

  10. fells, as always I appreciate your ability to put your party allegiance aside and be honest about the situation.

  11. No problem, it is what I do. :-) (Oh wait, I am a journalist, I have to.)