Vermont's Democratic gubernatorial nominee Christine Hallquist pitched a plan last week to fund free college tuition by increasing the state’s alcohol and tobacco tax, among other measures. But she said last month that raising taxes on Vermonters is "not something that anyone would want to do."
Hallquist, the first transgender major-party nominee for governor, spoke to a room of student Democrats at the University for Vermont last Wednesday where she formally announced her plan to fund free tuition at state colleges and vocational schools for low- and middle-income students. Hallquist's plan depends on savings she says would result from slashing Vermont's prison population, but before those savings are realized, it would rely on increased tax revenue and other funding sources, according to VTDigger.org.
Hallquist has said she would follow the Vermont American Civil Liberty Union’s plan to reduce the state’s prison population by half, drastically cutting the cost of incarceration in Vermont. The state spends more than $140 million on its prisoners annually, according to the ACLU.
But Hallquist has acknowledged that savings generated by slashing Vermont’s prisoner population wouldn’t materialize immediately, and that at first, funding for free college tuition would need to come from a patchwork of other revenue sources.
To put the plan into action immediately, she says the Legislature should consider hiking the state’s alcohol and tobacco tax, and eliminate a number of economic development programs championed by Gov. Phil Scott.
Another part of her plan includes advising lawmakers to examine funding sources outlined in S.231, a Vermont State Senate bill that was pitched by Progressive Party lawmakers earlier this year. This bill would have also granted free college tuition for Vermonters. State Sen. Anthony Pollina (D.), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said the legislation would require wealthy individuals in the state pay for education based on their annual income if it is more than their property value. The increased tax burden on wealthy Vermonters would apply to approximately the top third of earners in Vermont, according to VTDigger.org.
The plan contradicts what Hallquist said back in mid August when she criticized Scott, her Republican opponent, for portraying her as a tax-raiser—a charge she said was false.
"Last night, he went there in terms of adopting the national GOP agenda of using fear," she said. "I'm going to lead by hope and aspiration. He's going to lead by fear and division, and it's going to very clear."
"Last night, he told people, ‘Christine's going to raise your taxes, Christine's going to raise your taxes,'" she added. "I never said I was going to raise anybody's taxes. Who wants to raise taxes? That's just not something that anyone would want to do, so that's clearly the tactic is to divide Vermonters and drive in fear."
The Republican Governors Association called out Hallquist for hypocrisy, saying she has spent weeks denying she supports tax hikes.
"After spending weeks denying that she supports tax hikes, despite clear evidence to the contrary, Christine Hallquist is finally admitting that she wants Vermont families to pay more for her big government agenda," RGA spokesman John Burke said. "Hallquist has demonstrated an alarming dishonesty with voters on her support for tax hikes and has proven that she can’t be trusted to lead."
If elected, Hallquist wouldn't be the first Vermont politician to support tax hikes. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), who caucuses with Democrats, declared in 2016 that he would increase taxes to pay for his proposals as president.
Published under: Bernie Sanders , Taxes , Vermont