Commentary by Rep. Jim Condon of Colchester:
You may have heard some recent hubbub about a proposed carbon tax. Not only is a carbon tax a misguided idea, but I also believe it’s unconstitutional.
Allow me to explain. Every lawmaker in Montpelier takes an oath swearing to uphold and defend both the Constitution of the State of Vermont and the United States Constitution.
Article Nine of the Vermont Constitution states, “previous to any law being made to raise a tax, the purpose for which it is to be raised ought to appear evident to the Legislature to be of more service to community than the money would be if not collected.”
It is not “evident” to me that artificially inflating the cost of fuel in an attempt to discourage its use is of more service to the community than if the tax was not imposed to begin with.
As proposed, the carbon tax on gasoline, diesel fuel, propane and home heating oil would increase every year up to $500 million a year in added costs for Vermonters.
The gasoline tax would skyrocket by 88 cents a gallon, and heating oil would jump by $1.02 per gallon. A partial rebate in the form of a tax credit would eventually evaporate into nothing.
Those who drive for a living, commuters and people who like to stay warm would all suffer. That’s no way to treat our neighbors, most of whom can’t afford to buy a new Tesla or install solar farms in their backyards.
Despite possible temporary partial tax credits, businesses in Vermont would see their costs rise and their competitive disadvantages increase. Declining profits would translate into fewer jobs and a drop in corporate tax revenues. Gas stations, especially in border areas, might as well lock their doors and let their properties go feral. That’s not an evident service to our community, in my opinion.
Proponents will point towards the alleged success a carbon tax in British Columbia has had in reducing fuel consumption in that province. The data, however, doesn’t take into account the spike in cross border gas shopping.
According to Statistics Canada, the number of British Columbia drivers going across the border into Washington state has more than doubled since the inception of their carbon tax. That’s an extra quarter million vehicles a month leaving British Columbia. Are most of those vehicles filling up in Washington? Maybe not all, but I’d guess nearly all.
Consumption estimates in British Columbia are based on gallons sold within the province itself, so any reports heralding a drop in overall carbon emissions are suspect at best. In fact, statistics show, per capita greenhouse gas emissions have actually increased every year since 2010 in the province.
It’s also important to note that the British Columbia model is designed to be revenue neutral. The Vermont proposals are not revenue neutral and eventually would cost Vermonters an extra half a billion dollars a year.
If we’d like to be serious about reducing dependence on fossil fuels, we should be offering more carrots and fewer sticks.
We should do more to reward those businesses and entrepreneurs that are trying to create breakthroughs in clean energy generation. Now that would be a service to our community!
If re-elected, I will oppose any attempt to impose a carbon tax on our citizens. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website at www.condonforcolchester.com.
The Proposed Carbon Tax is a Lousy Idea