How to get those ski leases reopened

Last Tuesday, State Auditor Doug Hoffer issued a report on Vermont’s leases with ski resorts. The leases, he said, were outdated and were not bringing a fair return for the resorts’ highly profitable use of public lands.

At the time, you may recall, the state Parks and Rec Commissioner Michael Snyder basically threw up his hands and said there was nothing the state could do until the leases expire — decades from now.

Well, I’ve been reminded by someone more aware of state finances than I (which probably includes a substantial percentage of my readership) that the state does, indeed, have a hammer it could hold over the resorts’ heads.

It’s a tax exemption, granted in 2002, on ski lifts and snowmaking equipment. This exemption cost taxpayers $1.42 million in foregone revenue in fiscal year 2012.

It’s been suggested that this is basically a giveaway to a lucrative industry. Sen. Tim Ashe, chair of the the Senate Finance Committee, has called for a cleanup of Vermont’s cluttered, nonsensical “tax expenditure” system, and cited the ski equipment exemption as a clear example of the problem. As he put it, “every time they pay less, we all pay more.”

Well, hey. Why not dangle that juicy tax break in front of resort owners, and say something along the lines of “Gee, it looks like you’re getting a sweetheart deal on your leases AND a questionable tax exemption. Tell you what, we’re feeling generous; you can have one or the other, but not both.”

Makes all kinds of sense, at a time when the Governor and lawmakers are scrambling to find revenue and/or cut the budget. Problem is, the underlying reality hasn’t changed since I last wrote about this. Resort owners are politically connected (how many trips has Gov. Shumlin made with Bill Stenger?), and generous with campaign contributions. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to take either of their windfalls away.

Need proof? How about the sound of silence from the Statehouse in the aftermath of Hoffer’s report? Nobody wants to touch this one. It’s a shame. I expect better from my Democratic majority.

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4 thoughts on “How to get those ski leases reopened

  1. Kelly Cummings

    “…not bringing a fair return for the resorts’ highly profitable use of public lands.”
    CAN’T AFFORD UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE.
    “…giveaway to a lucrative industry.”
    CAN’T AFFORD UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE.
    “This exemption cost taxpayers $1.42 million in foregone revenue in fiscal year 2012.”
    CAN’T AFFORD UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE.
    “…“every time they pay less, we all pay more.”
    CAN’T AFFORD UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE.
    “…getting a sweetheart deal on your leases AND a questionable tax exemption.”
    CAN’T AFFORD UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE.
    “Tell you what, we’re feeling generous; you can have one or the other, but not both.”
    CAN’T AFFORD UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE.
    Resort owners are politically connected (how many trips has Gov. Shumlin made with Bill Stenger?), and generous with campaign contributions.”
    CAN’T AFFORD UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE.
    “How about the sound of silence from the Statehouse…”
    CAN’T AFFORD UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE.
    “Nobody wants to touch this one.”
    CAN’T AFFORD UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE.
    “It’s a shame.”
    CAN’T AFFORD UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE.
    “I expect better from my Democratic majority.”

    Must the people of Vermont suffer, so businesses of Vermont can succeed?
    It’s time we started asking this question.
    It’s time we started getting some real and honest answers from “our” elected legislators.
    No more silence.

    Reply
  2. Cynthia Browning

    I believe that House Corrections and Institutions, which has jurisdiction over leasing of state land, and on which I serve, is going to look into this. I think that the tax expenditure issue is an interesting one.

    Rep.Cynthia Browning, Arlington

    Reply
    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Glad to hear it. This certainly seems like a great time to review expenditures. Apparently Rep. Ancel, chair of Ways and Means, isn’t inclined to reopen the issue, so there’s a big job ahead of you.

      Reply
  3. waltermoses

    For years I have inquired about these leases with state employees as well as officials in various state offices. Always got stonewalled with the usual “I had nothing to do with it; that was before my time; I don’t know who would know about that” malarky. Now I know why. I will ask Rep. Ancel about reopening negotiations. Thanks again to Rep. Browning, also to VPO.

    Reply

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