Ethnic Cleansing in Vermont

Whether or not the Vermont Legislature foresaw the damage they would do to the social fabric in their zeal to control everything from Montpelier with the radical school funding law, is hard to say. But, as with Maine, it looks like further cultural shifts away from rural values are ahead, as longtime taxpayers take a hit from Act 60. A short, but telling, news item on last night's 6 o'clock news on WCAX-TV reported that real estate brokers are finding that Act 60 may have more of an impact on home selling than on home buying in gold towns" like Manchester.<br/><br/>Quoting from the broadcast, "They say long-term residents, whose taxes are going to suddenly double, might decide to sell. But out-of-state buyers accustomed to spending more on real estate taxes, don't seem to be put off."<br/><br/>By the time the dust cleared from Maine's encounter with the state property tax, the little town of Castine numbered fewer natives and a lot more people from "away".<br/><br/>The social change prompted one retired, Castine in-migrant to grumble that if he and his wife had wanted to live next door to people from New York, they would have stayed there. He had admired and enjoyed the associations he had made with Maine people in his pre-retirement years and now they were almost all gone.<br/><br/>The Maine mystique of picturesque fishing villages peopled by Downeast natives who say "Ayah", disappeared with the high tax bills. The houses have been restored and the properties cared for, but towns like Castine and Camden are heavily populated with retired ad executives and former FBI agents, the types who thought the price and tax bills on their newly-purchased homes were reasonable compared to where they came from.<br/><br/>By buying at the new price, they were actually driving up the taxes for their neighbors. That's the nature of a state property tax scheme. An Eaton, an old Maine name, still owns the boat yard in Castine, but he's one of the few indigenous people left. Camden is a tourist harbor now, not a working harbor.<br/><br/>Not only does the culture shift but a state property tax carries inflation into the door yard of people who found that their annual tax bill was equal to what they had originally paid for the house.<br/><br/>The tax was enacted in the name of children, with no thought to whether those children, once grown, could ever own a home with the tax burden it created. "They took away our right to be poor" was the comment of a young couple, trying to subsist on a piece of land in Waldo County in the 1970s when Maine had its run-in with the monstrous tax. York County, with so much coastal property, first felt the impact of social change created by it.<br/><br/>Small-town Maine people, who generally have a softer approach to politics than flamboyant newcomers, have seen their local zoning ordinances and their town meetings changed by people who hardly settle down before they want to import the ways of where they came from. The newly-arrived seem fascinated by, but fearful of, the freedom brought by local control.<br/><br/>Electing selectmen outside of town meeting, eliminating nominations from the floor, is one of the first things the new residents succeed in doing.<br/><br/>Why the old timers object to "taking out papers" is a subtlety that escapes them, in their rush to run for office. They lose, and discover later that there is a Maine axiom about electing people you don't know very well: "You'd better winter 'em and summer 'em before you elect 'em."<br/><br/>Although the item on last night's news was small, the message was significant. It strikes at the heart of why government tinkering is dangerous, why legislatures don't know it all and should not go where angels fear to tread.<br/><br/>If government agents were sent from Montpelier to target specific towns, going door to door and driving out all owners on fixed incomes or lower incomes who couldn't provide the money necessary to fuel the appetite of the state, replacing them with people whose bank accounts were larger, there would be a scandal of national proportions.<br/><br/>Yet, in time, Act 60 will do the same thing.<br/><br/><br/>"

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