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Vermont governor reiterates concerns about Legislature’s budget deliberations

Vermont Statehouse August 26, 2023
Pat Bradley
Vermont Statehouse

During his weekly briefing Wednesday, Vermont Governor Phil Scott continued to call on the legislature to curtail any plans to increase taxes and fees. Joining him was a small business owner who said the increases the state has been adding are bankrupting businesses.

Scott, a Republican, once again noted that he presented a budget to the Democratically controlled legislature in January that was balanced and prioritized spending in priority areas such as housing. But he said he is disheartened by the current actions he is seeing in the legislature.

“Every committee appears to be doing its own thing without any spending parameters in sight,” Scott observed. “We hear from Vermonters every single day who are more than just concerned. Some are angry. They can’t afford the hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes the Legislature’s considering or even the Legislature’s $100-million payroll tax coming July 1. They can’t afford hundreds or thousands of dollars more a year to heat their homes and businesses and also see their electric bills increase as well. Even things like a 20% hike in DMV fees stretch budgets thin. We’re asking way too much of Vermonters and they’ve had enough.”

During the pandemic, Amanda Shangraw and her husband Peter started a hand-made luxury leather goods business in their garage. They eventually expanded, buying two abandoned buildings in Williamstown. Last week Shangraw wrote to legislators and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development about how difficult it is becoming to run a small business in the state. The agency forwarded her letter to the governor and Scott invited Shangraw to the briefing.

“Everyone keeps saying help your towns, lift people up,” Shangraw said. “Peter and I worked seven days a week for the last three-and-a-half years. We work 16-hour work days. We have kids. We have sacrificed every day off. We pay for the buildings in our town and the continuous upkeep with our own paychecks that we often skip with the goal of reviving a small rural town and promoting tourism. The taxes that our business is seeing monthly to the state on top of increasing property taxes and the endless permitting and fees is bankrupting our small business.”

In less than two years, Shangraw says their small business has paid nearly $142,000 in taxes to the state.

“That number is about to increase drastically,” noted Shangraw. “How do we survive when we don’t have pockets as deep as the big corporations? Between the cost of living currently and constantly increasing and having us to skip our own paychecks to make sure that the power stays on and we’re keeping our employees employed we feel like we’re drowning. Your small hikes in taxes are truly killing the working-class American dream. When you go to vote on these things, these little hidden things, remember that they have great impacts and they are suffocating us.”

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