A Tax Many Wouldn't Be Able to Afford

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carbon taxNORTHEAST KINGDOM- It is no secret that heating homes with oil in Vermont is very costly, especially with such long and brutal winters. Here in the Northeast Kingdom, many homeowners are feeling the effects of an already high price of home heating oil. In 2016, a tax was put on home heating oil and propane which raised the cost about two cents per gallon.

The current carbon tax proposal would raise these costs an additional two cents. Though this may be a short-term financial inconvenience for many, environmental experts like Ben Luce see the upsides of the potential tax.

"We have seen a lot of success with renewal energy policies in general, especially because they directly apply to promoting those kinds of technologies. In Vermont, we have not designed those policies in the best way and have made numerous mistakes. That's not to say they don't result in the development of renewables."

While the money raised from the potential tax increase could be put towards the development of renewable energy, there is a vast aging population that is already struggling to heat their homes and would not be able to afford this increase. Northeast Kingdom Council on Aging Executive Director says that the tax would end up setting back those who it is designed to help.

"It's really a two sides to the coin story. In terms of our seniors who are struggling to pay for fuel costs, this winter was a great example. It started in November and we're still getting notices of people who are running out of oil. The state funds are depleted, we have exhausted every community resource we have, and these people don't have the resources to pay for that."

For those who are supportive of a carbon tax, the sacrificed increase in spending on heating oil is worth it for the long-term benefit yielded from renewable energy sources. Luce feels that four cents per gallon is not a significant cost.

"I think that is a reasonable entry level price for that policy. The other thing that can happen is if these policies are well designed and actually work, some of the alternatives phased in could really end up saving people a lot of money too."

For those who are representing the elderly struggling to heat their homes or businesses, the long-term good this tax would bring down the road would be absolutely detrimental right now. Northeast Kingdom Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Darcie McCann sees the direct financial burden that it would have on certain businesses in the area.

"We have a business in the Northeast Kingdom that has two operations, and the carbon tax between those two alone would cost them an additional two hundred thousand dollars a year."

The matter of fact is many of these elderly people do not have four cents to spare for this tax. Their everyday living expenses are already too much for them to pay for, and increasing the cost on heating fuel would make it very hard for them to stay warm in the winter.