At the February meeting of the Roundtable Board of Directors, Ken Perine, President and CEO of the National Bank of Middlebury, and chair of the Tax & Fiscal Policy Task Force, presented that group’s reactions and policy recommendations, which were ultimately endorsed by the Board. On two separate occasions over the past year, the Roundtable presented formal testimony before the Blue Ribbon Tax Structure Commission (BRTSC) and, later in the process, also participated in a roundtable discussion of current issues with members of the Commission and other stakeholders.
The Roundtable’s Task Force felt that the Commission did a good job in analyzing the issues and setting the stage for its recommendations, and endorsed the broad set of principles that guided their work: fairness (actual and perceived); economic competitiveness; simplicity; transparency; tax neutrality; sustainability; Executive and Legislative accountability to tax payers; revenue neutrality and interoperability. These principles are remarkably similar to principles that have guided the Roundtable’s evaluation of tax and fiscal policy since its first work in 1991. The Roundtable also appreciated the Commission’s six findings, which addressed a series of perception issues that, according to the report, have historically clouded Vermont’s discussion of tax policy and impair the work of policymakers.
Overall, the Roundtable agreed with the majority of recommendations to restructure the income tax, including the use of AGI and implementing a lower, flatter rate and bracket structure. In a handful of instances, the Roundtable took no position either for or against (e.g., elimination of standardized and itemized deductions, and the valuation of tax exempt properties). There were also two areas in which the Roundtable specifically disagreed with the Commission: broadening the sales tax base to include services, and decreasing the sales tax rates.