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A taxing question: Futurists ask: Can Vermonters have it all

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2009-11-08

The state's $6 billion annual budget provides taxpayers with everything from snowplowing to subsidized health insurance. Seemingly the only thing that's missing is enough money to fund it.

"The socially progressive policies that help support those in need in the state are a hallmark of Vermont," says the nonprofit, nonpartisan Council on the Future of Vermont, "but also strain the financial and delivery systems in place today."

Vermont regularly makes national news as one of the healthiest and safest states. But rising costs for medical care and rates of imprisonment are squeezing a budget already burdened by schools, roads and bridges.

"The ideal of picturesque farms, quaint villages and small shops held together by a small school and local church has its reality but can also be romanticized," the council writes in its report, "Imagining Vermont: Values and Vision for the Future." "Like any place, Vermont has its share of social ills such as crime, domestic violence, drug abuse, poverty and hunger."

Vermonters want solutions. But more than 85 percent of those surveyed voice concern about the state's tax rate — sixth highest per capita in the nation and 38 percent above the U.S. average.

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