Increase in rooms and meals tax weighed to fund waterway cleanup


Lawmakers are looking to pay for the cleanup of the state's waterways with partial funding from the state's rooms and meals tax.

A January 2013 report estimated it would cost $155 million a year for 10 years to clean up the state's rivers, streams, lakes and ponds.

"We're not going after that much money," says Rep. David Deen, D-Putney, who chairs the Committee on Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources. "Vermont doesn't have it."

The committee is proposing an additional 0.25 percent increase in the state's 9 percent rooms and meals tax (10 percent on alcohol served in restaurants) to help fund the cleanup.

The bill would also raise funds from runoff caused by development, such as roads, parking lots and buildings, by creating a per parcel fee. The flat fee is set at $10 for residential property and $20 for commercial.

Together, Deen says, the bill could generate between $3 million and $5 million. The committee will also consider a fee on wholesale fertilizer and rental cars to shore up more funds.

H.586 sets new far-reaching standards for agriculture, forestry and infrastructure - the nonpoint sources of pollution that are considered to be the cause of phosphorus buildup in the state's lakes and ponds.

Deen says state agencies do not have the resources or personnel to administer the cleanup, which includes helping farmers, foresters and towns meet new runoff standards.

"They do not have the resources. They just don't," he said. "And it is not necessarily an ongoing expense. But we need to infuse some money into our response at this point."

The Environmental Protection Agency ordered the state to create a new standard to limit phosphorus pollution in Lake Champlain.

The state must meet the new standard or face tighter restrictions on Lake Champlain's wastewater treatment facilities and cuts in federal funding, EPA officials have said.


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