[First published in our Oct. 17, 1986 edition. Click here for a PDF version of the original.]
By Maureen T. Holland
Governor Madeleine Kunin recently appointed Dean Jonathon Chase to the Commission on Local Taxation and State Aid to Education, and Stephanie Willbanks was appointed to the Commission on State Tax Policy.
The Vermont Commission on Local Taxation and State Aid to Education is composed of 15 members, 5 members appointed by the Governor. The Commission has a legislative mandate to assess local property taxation for education and state aid to education and to reduce its recommendations to a single legislative bill. John Dooley, Secretary of Administration for the State of Vermont, says the commission’s task is to frame a bill that “will insure that every child has the same educational opportunity.”
Mr. Dooley said Dean Chase was chosen as a member not only for his knowledge in the area of constitutional law and his background in legal services to the poor but also for his understanding of and commitment to equity. In an interview, Dean Chase stated that equity would be his first objective as a participant in the work of the commission. Equity, he said, means that each community making the same fiscal effort achieves the same economic result per pupil. His second objective is that all Vermont students be guaranteed an education of at least a minimum quality.
In a simplified outline of his ideal proposal, Dean Chase described a $3,200 per pupil minimum. To achieve this, each district would be taxed at a minimum rate. Property-poor districts able to raise only 2,000 per pupil at this rate would still be guaranteed a $3,200 minimum, the difference to be made up from a state aid to education pool. A property-rich district able to raise $5,000 per pupil at the same rate would put $1,800 into the pool to equalize the districts. Dean Chase emphasized his willingness to make trade-offs. He said he wanted a bill that has a real chance of passage through the legislature. The final bill is due no later than Jan. 6, 1987.
Professor Stephanie Willbanks was appointed to the Commission on State Tax Policy because of her academic orientation and her knowledge of the federal tax system, said Mr. Dooley. Professor Willbanks was on the Vermont Bar Association Tax Commission for two years.
The Tax Policy Commission is composed of 12 members, 3 appointed by the Governor. The commission is to conduct a comprehensive study of Vermont’s tax policy—a task that has not been undertaken in 10 years, according to Mr. Dooley. The commission will establish set goals of tax policy and then evaluate with these goals in mind the current Vermont tax structure, or revenue systems, including personal income tax, corporate tax, sales tax, and rooms and meals tax. The commission will also examine the federal tax changes and their likely impact on the state.
Professor Willbanks sees this as a great educational opportunity to learn more about state taxation. She hopes to apply this knowledge in a proposed course on state local taxation.
The commission will makes its recommendations to the General Assembly of Vermont on or before Jan. 31, 1987.