A dispute over high taxes has prompted a popular Vermont ski-resort town to threaten seceding from the state and joining neighboring New Hampshire.
Local officials in Killington, Vt., with a population of about 1,000, want voters to decide the issue in March, the Rutland Herald in Vermont reports.
“We’re very serious,” said Norman Holcomb, chairman of the town’s Select Board. “It’s not just an effort to make a statement. It’s an effort to save our community.”
The proposal would make Killington a landlocked part of New Hampshire, which is 25 miles east of the town. The neighboring Granite state, whose motto is “Live free or die,” has no income or sales tax.
Vermont officials in the capital, Montpelier, however, appear unconcerned with the talk, citing legal obstacles.
“This is symbolic, clearly,” Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz told the Herald. “Absent an armed insurrection type of thing, there isn’t anything a town can do to secede. A town is a construction of the state and exists at the pleasure of the Legislature.”
Killington leaders complain the town’s vacation-oriented businesses bring in $10 million a year for the state but only about $1 million comes back to the community.
They also decry the property tax to fund schools, initiated in 1997, which the town says is assessed in an “arbitrary and capricious” way.
Town Manager David Lewis compares Killington’s situation to that of the American colonists under the British monarchy.
“We have no rights, we have no justice, no representation,” he told the Rutland paper. “We’re being used as a cash cow to support others.”
If the town’s voters pass the resolution, officials say they would then finance studies to calculate the benefits of joining New Hampshire, the paper said.
New Hampshire has high property taxes, but its lack of income and sales tax would be a boost to businesses, Lewis contended, according to the Herald.
The next step would be for the town to petition the New Hampshire Legislature. If New Hampshire shows interest but Vermont balks, Lewis said the town is prepared to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A University of Vermont political science professor noted the Vermont town of Grande Isle made a similar motion some 20 years ago but nothing resulted. He predicts Killington’s next town meeting, where the ballot measure will be proposed, will be nothing more than a colorful event.
“There will be wonderfully articulate arguments, and Thomas Jefferson will be quoted and the Declaration of Independence will be read,” said Garrison Nelson. “My guess is eloquence will flow throughout the meeting, but irrelevance will overtake it.”