Vt. property owners could pay millions for lake cleanup
MONTPELIER, Vt. -
Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce says more than $115 million should get poured into Lake Champlain cleanup every year. The problem is Vermont’s cash flow dedicated to the issue only amounts to $55 million.
“The state is involved in this, the private sector is involved in this, the municipalities are involved in this. We’re all in this together to solve the problem,” said Pearce, D-Vermont.
Just looking at cleanup required by the federal government, the state falls $50 million short every year of the 20-year term. Pearce says the private sector and municipalities will be on the hook for all that cash if the state doesn’t help pick up the tab. She suggests covering half of the yearly due by borrowing from creditors over the next two years while lawmakers settle on a long-term, stable revenue stream.
“It is our hope that we can do this without raising taxes, without raising fees,” Pearce said.
But after the first two years, the treasurer’s preferred long-term funding source involves fees on property owners. Her report considers a flat-fee of $50 per property in the state or one based on how much any given parcel contributes to water pollution.
“Everything has to be on the table, it’s an incredible amount of money,” said Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont.
Scott ran on a platform calling for limiting cost hikes on Vermonters. He says he’s hopeful cleanup won’t mean additional taxes or fees but concedes they may be necessary.
“I’m not interested in more property taxes,” said Michael Senesac of Colchester.
Some Vermonters who chatted with us Tuesday argue New York and Canada should chip in before Vermont spends any more. Others say the lake is too important to ignore, even if they’re overtaxed and not as responsible as some for the pollution.
“I don’t live on a river, I’m not a farmer, I don’t have a big parking lot, but I would be willing to pay my fair share,” said Jennifer Arnott of Richmond.
Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson suggested the House could consider a long-term funding stream this year. Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe says he’s open to the idea of a per parcel fee. But, like the governor, Ashe said lawmakers need to see more detailed spending plans before they sign off on that.