Douglas likely to veto Vermont Yankee tax bill

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas and the Legislature are headed for a showdown over a plan to tax the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant to help finance a new global warming initiative.

Douglas says it’s likely that he’ll veto the bill.

If that happens, Senate president Peter Shumlin says it will be clear that Douglas isn’t serious about reducing the threat of global warming.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The global warming bill increases an existing energy generation tax on Vermont Yankee. Backers of the plan argue that it’s a fair approach because it’s the same tax rate that’s being applied to new wind projects.

Most of the money raised from the tax would be used to help finance an expansion of the state’s energy efficiency programs beginning in 2009.

The governor made it very clear at his weekly press conference that he’ll veto the bill if it includes the new Vermont Yankee tax. Douglas says it sends a terrible message to the state’s business community and he argues it will mean higher electric rates for consumers when current contracts expire in 2012.

(Douglas) “I’m for the ratepayers who are going to be adversely impacted by this as time goes on. I’m for the taxpayers of our state who are going to be adversely impacted because of the very inappropriate message that this sends to the business community.”

(Kinzel) Senate president Peter Shumlin is urging the governor not to veto the bill.

(Shumlin) “I’m going to hold out hope that the governor isn’t going to be Entergy’s best lobbyist. They have plenty of high paid lobbyists in this building. They don’t need the governor. This is going to be the test of whether this governor, like George Bush and Dick Cheney, simply want to pay lip service to global warming or whether they’re going to run the run with us.”

(Kinzel) The governor also argues that passing this legislation could hurt the state economy.

(Douglas) “To have one particular company or industry subject to a tax all of a sudden sends a bad message to those who would invest in our state.”

(Kinzel) But senator Shumlin dismisses this argument.

(Shumlin) “I just think that’s desperate tactics. How does it possibly send a negative message to the business community that we found that Entergy hasn’t had any increase in their property taxes since 2003? No other Vermonter has their property taxes frozen back to the 2003 level before they invested 100 million dollars in their property fair is fair.”

(Kinzel) The Senate has already given its approval to this plan. It’s scheduled to be debated on the House floor on Friday.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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