Vt. Gov Balks On Tax

Montpelier — Vermont lawmakers yesterday failed to end the session this weekend, as debate continued over tax policy with Gov. Peter Shumlin and late-session bills remained unresolved.

They plan to return to work Monday and Tuesday.

A House-Senate conference committee meeting yesterday to hammer out details on a tax bill ran afoul of the governor when it began to zero in on a plan to make Vermont’s income tax more progressive. Supporters said it would help three quarters of taxpayers by lowering rates, while increasing taxes for the top earners.

But Shumlin wasn’t buying it.

“The last thing we should be doing is raising income taxes ... on the fly,” Shumlin said.

He disputed lawmakers’ assertions that the changes would be revenue-neutral, saying they would raise “millions and millions” in new money coming into state coffers.

On the other side of the ledger, lawmakers still had not completed work on a general fund budget for 2014.

Lawmakers couldn’t resolve whether to follow the administration’s request to lay off six counselors in the Labor Department who help people in the state’s welfare-to-work program find jobs and devote the money instead to substance abuse treatment and mental health programs.

They made some progress, however, on other issues:

■ The House passed bills that call for labeling genetically modified food, though the Senate isn’t expected to act on the measure until next year. House passage drew kudos from Consumers Union, which said the bill marked the first time a legislature in the U.S. has voted to require labeling of a broad range of genetically engineered food.

■ The Senate extended for three more years a moratorium on applying Vermont’s sales tax to software purchased off the Internet.

■ Lawmakers corrected errors and in late-session bills. In one example, senators noticed that a House bill to remove criminal penalties and replace them with civil fines for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana would have done the same for hashish.