Vermonters are taxed enough
As Vermonters, we pride ourselves, in our personal and business lives, on meeting a challenge head-on with ingenuity, hard work and a good dose of thriftiness. Speaking as a longtime Londonderry resident and president of Stratton Mountain Resort, my neighbors and colleagues have seen rising costs coupled with a few challenging seasons. Since we can’t just raise our salaries, we’ve tightened our belts.
Before Vermont lawmakers vote to boost the state’s “salary” with broad-based tax increases, we ask that legislators take a hard look at cutting costs. Tax increases on the table would threaten our local businesses as well as that steady stream of income from sales, rooms and meals taxes. We support Gov. Peter Shumlin in his opposition to the House tax increases.
After a challenging few years, this most recent ski season has been a bright spot with an increase in visits and spending. Vermont is a powerful brand, but we cannot take guest loyalty and growing consumer confidence for granted. We compete for our share of tourist dollars with surrounding New England states, each of which already has a significant advantage on the tax front.
For example, no other state adds a 6 percent sales tax to lift tickets. Even “Tax-achusetts” charges a 6 percent meals tax while we tack on 9 percent which the House would further increase.
Since the recession of 2007, we have thankfully seen our visits rebounding, representing rooms and meals tax revenues at a projected $130 million for this year. That’s 10 percent of the state-generated revenues. While a percentage here and a percentage there may not seem significant, when we work to attract big-ticket groups, conventions and weddings those single percentages add up to a big line item that could make the difference between choosing Vermont or another state.
When we send more money to the state from growing the volume of rooms, meals and sales tax, we do so from a position of strength that allows Vermont-based businesses to continue funding capital improvements that will help us to be ever more competitive in the marketplace. Increasing tax rates could, in fact, result in lower overall tourist revenues if we lose visits to Maine or beyond. We are fortunate to be within a four- to five-hour drive of 45 million people; but those same 45 million people are being wooed by scores of states, many of which have far greater advertising budgets.
As in any business, the state must prioritize its spending. While we have a wish list of projects at Stratton, we launch in relation to revenue. Gov. Peter Shumlin understands what it takes to make a business successful, he knows how to create jobs, and he is willing to make the tough choices that transcend special interests.
We support Gov. Peter Shumlin, and agree, “Vermonters are already taxed enough.”
Sky Foulkes is president and chief operating officer of Stratton Mountain Resort.