Editorial: Passing the believability test
Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Dubie’s economic blueprint for the state calls for reducing the state income tax from its current 9 percent to 6 or 7 percent over an undetermined time period — but presumably during the time he is in office, if elected.
Based on conservative estimates, that would mean reducing $200 million of the $600 million — 33 percent — projected to be raised by the state’s income tax in fiscal year 2013.
Whoa. To pay for this aspect of his plan, Dubie makes the assumption that the tax cuts will spur the economy and yield more overall tax revenues — even with a tax reduction of one-third. Plus, he plans to reduce state spending significantly, even though the Legislature and administration have struggled to balance the budget with severe cuts over the past two sessions.
Upon what does Dubie base his proposal? Anecdotal hearsay.
“I’ve been to ribbon-cuttings with small business owners who said it didn’t really make sense for them to start a small business in Vermont because of income tax treatment and because of the high marginal rates,” he told the Rutland Herald earlier this week. “I’m not espousing some ideology here. I’m espousing what I’ve heard from the thousands of Vermonters I’ve talked to all over the state.”
That’s the type of bush-league thinking that has the nation in the economic mess that it is in today, and has stagnated the state’s economy for the past eight years.
Hopefully, economic policy by the two leading gubernatorial candidates will be based on thoughtful analysis and solid economic principles — not by what people say when they are opening their businesses at ribbon cuttings (kind of ironic, uh?)
Dubie has already been backpedaling on his tax-cutting plan, saying it was just a starting point in a conversation with the Legislature and excusing his absence of detail to justify how he would raise the lost revenue or how he would cut an additional $200 million out of the state budget. But voters should press for more definitive answers.
Candidates from either party must be able to back-up their proposals by demonstrating realistic steps to reach their goals or economic facts to justify their proposals. For his part, Dubie could commission a study to see whether current second home owners in the state would declare Vermont their year-around residence if the state tax were dropped substantially (thus being able to tax those incomes.)
Without such detail, however, such outlandish proposals are either empty rhetoric or a recipe for legislative gridlock — and neither benefits the state. In this case, Dubie needs to flush out the details of his 33 percent tax cut or revise his proposal to something Vermonters could at least believe is possible. And this does not pass that test.
Angelo S. Lynn