Editor’s note: Recently, Commons columnist and contributor Joyce Marcel asked to follow around Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin on a typical morning. Shumlin agreed, and granted a one-on-one interview, saying he wanted someone from “the home team” to see him in action.
At Power & Tel in Bethel, he gave a shorter version of his stump speech to the sales staff and then begged for questions.
“Fire away,” Shumlin said. “You’ve got the governor here. We’re a 24/7 operation. If you need help with the state government, then call us.
“I apologize for the long winter. When I was running, I was talking to the ski association. I said, ’I’ll make you a campaign promise. If you elect me governor, I’ll give you lots of natural snow.’ That was in October. They all laughed. But I keep my promises. You couldn’t turn the damn thing off.”
That earned him a laugh.
“Don’t be shy,” Shumlin said. “Keep up the good work.”
He stood in the door as they filed out. Shyness appeared to be alleviated, because everyone shook his hand. Again, he posed for pictures.
With a deep budget deficit facing him, many have suggested he raise taxes on the wealthy. In fact, a group of wealthy liberal Vermonters have written to the governor requesting that he tax them at a higher rate.
“That is politics, not policy,” Shumlin said.
Shumlin, who revealed during the campaign that he was worth over $10 million himself, rejected the idea with a bit of sarcasm.
“It’s fantastic that a lot of people have a lot of money,” he said. “Send us your money. We’ll take it any time. It’s tax-free, and you can make a donation. I don’t think you can make a better contribution than to the state of Vermont.”
Vermont already taxes the rich, Shumlin said.
“What’s been lost in this discussion about raising the income taxes on the wealthy in Vermont is that we already do,” Shumlin said. “We have, thanks to me and others — and I’m proud of it — the most progressive income tax in the country. Not just in New England, but in the country. We are charging our wealthiest citizens more than any other state, as it should be.”
Vermont only has 160 people who “make the big bucks,” Shumlin said.
“We don’t have thousands of them, as many people think,” he said. “It’s 160 people who have made more than half a million dollars once in the last nine years. You can find that in Fairfield County, Conn., in a block. Vermont has a progressive income tax. Let’s keep what we have and grow the customer base.”
At the national level, however, Shumlin said he believed the rich should be taxed more.
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