Any day now, I expect Phil Scott to disavow the dishonest campaign tactics of his own Vermont Republican ParBWAHAHAHAHAHA Sorry, I thought I could get through that with a straight face.
At issue is VTGOP Executive Director Jeff Bartley’s continuing attacks on Sue Minter’s allegedly tax-happy ways. Problem: to make his case, he has to resort to fearmongering, gross exaggeration, and outright falsehood. So yeah, if Phil Scott were serious about negative campaigning, he’d clean up his own house first.
But I’m not holding my breah.
Bartley presents a two-fer in his latest press release, attacking Minter incorrectly for supporting a Vermont carbon tax (she doesn’t) and for pondering an expansion of the sales tax to include services (she’s considering it). The argument is taken further in this Tweet from @VTGOP.
— VT Republican Party (@VTGOP) September 19, 2016
Awww. Mean old lady wants to tax cute little boy’s haircut.
Bartley’s sort of right on that one. But he salted his argument with the kind of demagoguery designed to forestall the honest conversation we need to have about our creaky, outdated tax system.
The background: A few years ago, the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Tax Commission recommended numerous changes to make our tax system fairer and less burdensome. One of those was to extend the sales tax to include services as well as tangible goods — while lowering the actual tax rate to make the changes revenue-neutral.
It’s a really good idea because our economy is becoming increasingly service-oriented. As a result, sales tax revenue is falling and will continue to do so. It could be argued that the goods-only sales tax is an unfair burden on those who manufacture and sell goods, while service providers get off scot-free. If we’re interested in encouraging manufacturing and local retail, why not extend the sales tax and lower the rate?
Long story short, the Blue Ribbon Commission’s idea is, at the very least, worthy of discussion. It does not deserve the kind of demagoguery it’s getting from Jeff Bartley.
Nor does Minter. All she said was “we need to be thinking” about extending the sales tax AND reducing the rate. She didn’t actually endorse the idea. And she has never supported a net increase in sales tax revenue.
In fact, Bartley’s attack bears a striking resemblance to an unfair Bruce Lisman attack on Phil Scott during the primary election. During a candidates’ forum, Scott was discussing how fuel-efficient and electric-powered vehicles will reduce gas tax revenues, which in turn will require a new system for funding roads and highways. He referred to an oft-discussed option of taxing drivers on the basis of miles driven instead of gas purchased.
Shortly thereafter, Lisman’s crew put out a press release accusing Scott of endorsing an economy-crushing, Vermonter-impoverishing mileage tax. That was a lie then, and Bartley is lying now.
But hey, he’s gotta keep busy somehow. He’s apparently not spending his time fundraising; the party’s latest FEC filing shows that it has a pitiful $8,579 in cash on hand.
And that, unlike Bartley’s rhetoric, is a fact, Jack.
In order to paint Minter as a supporter of a state carbon tax, Bartley has to play fast and loose with the truth. Which is that Minter would support a regional carbon-tax initiative, but is against unilateral action by Vermont.
Here’s the pullquote used by Bartley to “prove” his contention:
“Democrats Sue Minter and Peter Galbraith said they would back (a carbon) tax in Vermont…” (Source: VTDigger, July 7th, 2016)
Okay, let’s go to the source.
Democrats Sue Minter and Peter Galbraith said they would back such a tax in Vermont, but only if other states in the region followed suit. Minter and fellow Democrat Matt Dunne said they’d prefer to see what Minter called a “cap and invest” strategy and what Dunne called a “cap and trade” approach.
Aha. Bartley cut off the context and served up a deceptive partial quote. In reality, Minter opposes the unilateral carbon tax that’s actually been proposed in the Legislature. And in reality, she’d prefer an alternative approach to any kind of carbon tax.
But that doesn’t play well on attack ads or press releases.
This constant stream of anti-tax demagoguery makes it impossible to have a serious, adult conversation about our tax system and how to make it better. But after all, Jeff Bartley doesn’t care about the quality of our government; he just wants to win the next election.
That’s short-term thinking, and it doesn’t help us address our problems.