• Gov. James H. Douglas
In a State of the State Address that decried Vermont’s high cost of living, Gov. James H. Douglas highlighted the rise in education property taxes and outlined a property-tax-relief plan.
“When enrollment is dropping but spending is rising and taxes are soaring, we have a problem that requires immediate attention,” said the Republican, who was first elected in 2002.
Finance: State spending on schools has risen an average of 6 percent a year since 1999, Mr. Douglas said. Meanwhile, enrollment has fallen by 8 percent over that time, and property taxes have risen, on average, by almost 8 percent a year.
The governor offered what he called a “comprehensive property-tax-relief plan” that includes capping education-property-tax growth at the rate of inflation, closing loopholes in a program that allows a homeowner’s income level to trigger tax breaks, and repealing the education tax on working farms by 2008.
Taxes:Under the governor’s plan, a town could override the tax cap on school spending and raise additional money locally with a 60 percent supermajority.
Mr. Douglas said he would also ask the legislature to reconsider a controversial provision added to the current budget that seemed to require state-taxpayer financing for public prekindergarten programs put in place by local school boards.
College Aid: Gov. Douglas said he was also concerned by the number of young Vermonters who leave the state for college, often never to return.
He proposed a 15-year, nearly $175 million program that would give out some 1,000 college scholarships a year to students who enrolled at a Vermont institution of higher education and then stayed in the state after graduation.