Congratulations to Tim Ashe, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, for shepherding this year’s tax bill to the Senate floor. He managed to find some new money for the budget while keeping true to the intention he stated earlier this week:
“In terms of the major tax areas, my goal is not to have the Senate need to go to those sources,” Ashe said.
The final package emerging from Senate Finance and Appropriations:
The lion’s share of the Senate’s revenue package is generated by the miscellaneous fee bill. The Senate version removes an increase in the employer assessment for uninsured workers, as well as a hike in bank taxes.
The latter two were passed by the House.
My congratulations are tempered with confusion, however. Ashe’s goal would be sensible and reasonable if he were a centrist Democrat in the mold of John Campbell or Dick Mazza, not a Progressive who now lists himself as a D slash P.
In previous years, Ashe has talked of reimagining the state’s tax system, along the lines suggested by the insightful Blue Ribbon Tax Structure Commission, which offered a framework for a tax system that more fairly reflected our 21st Century economy.
(Speaking of which, I caught the reporters’ roundtable on Friday’s “Vermont Edition.” At one point, the reporters noted that there is continuing pressure on the budget — but failed to mention the structural dynamics that are impacting tax revenues. Sales taxes are hit by Internet retail and the shift in our economy from goods to services, which are not subject to sales tax. That’s just one example, but the downward pressures on state revenue seem to be absent from the media’s radar.)
Now, Ashe appears content with the status quo, and has adopted the centrist mantra of “no broad-based tax increases.”
Well, if there was any doubt that he’s running for Senate President Pro Tem, let it be banished to the Tomb of Political Naiveté. He wants it, and he wants it bad enough to shrug off some inconvenient principles. Take this statement from earlier in the week, designed to induce conniptions in the Paul Cillos of the world:
“I don’t have a number in my head,” Ashe said. “I think we’re trying to do what we think is fair and then hope that that’s sufficient to pay for governance.”
A “hope” shared, ardently, by the working poor and welfare recipients and drug addicts and public sector employees of Vermont.
His political calculations are sound. The support of Senate centrists like Mazza and John Rodgers and Bobby Starr would be very helpful, and Ashe will have to overcome whatever resistance might exist in Democratic circles because of his Progressive background.
I wonder how this is playing on his home turf and with the Progressive Party.
I wonder if he’ll drop the “P” from his electoral designation this fall. For the sake of truth in labeling, perhaps he should.