Milne releases platform featuring tax incentives, education finance reform

Scott Milne
Scott Milne, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, speaks at a campaign press conference in Montpelier on Sept. 15. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

Scott Milne, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, released a policy platform Tuesday that includes a series of tax incentives, a plan to expand rural broadband access and  proposals to reform the state’s education finance system. 

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Milne called the package of roughly 60 proposals a “comprehensive blueprint” for how to make Vermont “a better place to live, work, raise a family, retire and prosper.”

“These aren't bumper sticker slogans or pie in the sky ideas,” Milne said. “Rather, they're realistic and specific reforms we can achieve together without busting the budget.”

Many of the proposals in Milne's platform were originally proposed by Gov. Phil Scott or Republicans in the Statehouse. 

Milne has aligned himself with the popular moderate Republican governor and says that he wants to provide Scott a “partner, and not an adversary in the lieutenant governor’s office.” 

The current lieutenant governor, David Zuckerman, is a Progressive-Democrat challenging Scott in the race for governor this year.  

Milne is facing off against Democratic Assistant Attorney General Molly Gray in the November election. 

Milne says he wants to implement “sales tax holiday” for electric vehicles, eliminate the tax on military retirement income and merge the state’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development with the Department of Labor — ideas that have all been pitched by the governor and failed to gain traction in the Democratic-controlled Legislature. 

He also says he would look to adopt a plan originally pitched by Rep. Scott Beck, R-St. Johnsbury, to reform the education property tax formula to contain costs and lower property taxes. 

The lieutenant governor, whose main role is to preside over the Vermont Senate, has no power to write or advance legislation. But lieutenant governors often use the high profile statewide platform to advocate for their policy priorities. 

When asked how Milne would use the lieutenant governor’s office to achieve his policy goals, despite the office’s limitations, he didn’t directly answer the question. 

“I believe that we've got a commonsense set of proposals that bipartisan legislators are going to look at and agree it makes sense,” Milne said.

“We're obviously working and hoping that some of these ideas that Governor Scott has put forth previously are going to be things that the administration, the lieutenant governor's office and both houses of the Legislature can collaborate on,” he said.

He added that he has a “history as a bipartisan person” and that his proposals will appeal to both Democrats and Republicans. 

Milne is pitching a series of tax credit proposals, including a credit for “angel investors” who invest in Vermont businesses.

He wants to bolster the state’s research and development tax credit which was reduced in 2014, and bring back tax incentives for film production, which the state repealed in 2011. 

In addition, he wants to expand the state’s income tax deduction for medical expenses and fully repeal the state’s tax on Social Security income. The state partially exempted Social Security earnings from income taxes in 2018. 

Milne hopes to harness the state’s Community Development Block Grant program, which distributes millions of federal dollars to towns each year, to help fund efforts to build out broadband in rural areas. 

He said he also supports price transparency requirements for the health care sector to “give consumers the ability to shop for more affordable options” when they seek medical care. 

Molly Gray
Molly Gray, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, speaks at a party rally in Montpelier on Aug. 13. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

Gray, the Democrat running against Milne, released her policy platform in February. 

The assistant attorney general says she would prioritize efforts to demilitarize the police, incentivize investment in the renewable energy sector and implement a universal paid family leave program.

Both Gray and Milne say that they would work to expand access to broadband and child care.

When asked about the similarities in their platforms, Milne criticized Gray’s proposals for lacking specifics. 

“You can put Molly Gray's plans for doing what she's saying on a bumper sticker. We’ve got specific plans for changing child care ratios to make child care more affordable,” Milne said. 

“We've got specific proposals on things that are going to encourage all broadband,” he said. 

In a statement, Gray’s campaign manager, Samantha Sheehan, said that Gray “has put forward a clear vision for Vermont centered around keeping a generation in Vermont and drawing a new generation to the state.” 

“From broadband to childcare, Gray has identified investments that will help our state recover stronger from COVID-19. Gray unveiled her platform in February and continues to focus her time on meeting directly with Vermonters,” Sheehan said. 

Gray has called for redirecting the $6 million the state spends annually on contracting with a private prison in Mississippi to expand access to child care.

And she has said that she wants to assemble a task force to conduct an “emergency needs assessment” for broadband. 

She has advocated for using additional state dollars, or federal coronavirus relief fund money to expand internet connectivity. 

Sheehan added that Gray has invited Milne to participate in a series of community forums with her around the state. 

Milne has declined Gray’s invitation, and said he would only participate in statewide broadcast debates. 

He reiterated Tuesday that he would not participate. 

“We’re participating in five or six statewide debates that are socially distanced and safe,” Milne said. “We're not taking part in community forums.”

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Xander Landen

About Xander

Xander Landen is VTDigger's political reporter. He previously worked at the Keene Sentinel covering crime, courts and local government. Xander got his start in public radio, writing and producing stories for NPR affiliates including WBUR in Boston and WNYC in New York. While at WNYC, he contributed to an award-winning investigation of how police departments shield misconduct records from the public. He is a graduate of Tufts University and his work has also appeared in PBS NewsHour and The Christian Science Monitor.

Email: [email protected]

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