The Socialist Mayor: Bernard Sanders in Burlington, Vermont

By Steven Soifer | Go to book overview

7
Taxes and the Redistribution of Wealth

During his tenure as mayor of Burlington, Bernard Sanders probably championed tax reform--and having big business pay its fair share of taxes--more than any other issue. No other issue so clearly strikes to the heart of city-state relations and the disproportionate tax burden of different classes.

Despite Vermont's tradition of town meeting, cities and towns are literally creatures of the state and therefore beholden to it in many ways. Perhaps most importantly, the only taxing power that most cities and towns in Vermont have is the property tax, which, by many accounts, is a regressively based tax, hurting those who can least afford it the most. Since Vermont is not a "home rule" state--that is, its towns and municipalities cannot alter their own charters without the approval of the state legislature--there are constant tensions between local and state interests over taxing powers, as most municipalities are entirely dependent on the property tax to fund most local government activities.

It is within this context that we must look at Sanders's battles over taxes. As the mayor of the state's largest city, he was one of the major advocates of changing the power relationships between towns or cities and the state and of the redistribution of wealth between rich and poor. Thus, battles over reappraisal, the gross receipts tax, payment in lieu of taxes from tax-exempt entities, property tax reclassification, and the excavation fee all could have been anticipated. That Sanders was able to win on several of these issues, which has redistributed the tax burden between the haves and the have-nots to some degree and fundamentally changed the dialogue between local and state government in Vermont, was certainly to his credit.

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The Socialist Mayor: Bernard Sanders in Burlington, Vermont
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - Historical Background and Theoretical Framework on Socialist Municipalities 1
  • 2 - Burlington, Bernard Sanders, and the Progressive Coalition 13
  • 3 - Local Government and City Finances in Burlington 39
  • Conclusion 60
  • 4 - Development and Growth Issues and the Sanders Administration 61
  • Conclusion 88
  • 5 - Citizen Participation, Democracy, and the Neighborhoods 91
  • Conclusion 117
  • 6 - The Question of Ownership Under Municipal Socialism 119
  • Conclusion 141
  • 7 - Taxes and the Redistribution of Wealth 142
  • Conclusion 171
  • 8 - Quality-Of-Life Issues and the Sanders Administration 174
  • Conclusion 204
  • 9 - Central America: Sanders and the Peace Movement 206
  • Conclusion 222
  • 10 - Conclusion 224
  • 11 - Epilogue 238
  • Notes 243
  • Selected Bibliography 273
  • Index 275
  • About the Author 287
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