Dear Mr. Shumlin, I am writing to express my concern over the bill you plan to put before the Legislature in January that involves your proposed excise tax on heating oil and propane. As the director of a small nonprofit corporation devoted to providing fuel assistance to families in the Deerfield Valley, I see, on a daily basis the struggles that Vermont residents in our area face each winter trying to keep their homes at least tolerably warm. We formed to help those folks who “fall through the cracks” and do not qualify for fuel assistance from the state. However, due to the increased cost of fuel, and the relatively small amount of money the state is able to provide, we often are called upon to help your people as well. The unintended consequences of this proposal, like most well-intentioned government plans, will affect most individual Vermonters and many businesses in a negative manner. This will neither produce the publicized “job creation” nor will it result in “decreased consumption, improved thermal efficiency and positive climate change,” that have been listed as the desirable effects of such a policy. To begin with, the effect on most small to large businesses of an 11-cent-per-gallon excise charge – on top of what they already pay in taxes to this state – will sure make many of them rethink the reasons for continuing to do business in Vermont. Merely slipping over the border to New Hampshire, where there is no tax at all on heating costs for business, would cut down their costs of doing business by about 10%, not to mention cut down on a lot of other bureaucratic hassles that they encounter here. To the average citizen it has become obvious over the years that this state spends a lot of time putting up roadblocks to anyone who might want to come here to start a business, or even to stay here and do business. That is one of the reasons that your tax revenues rely so heavily on individual homeowners today. Secondly, anyone with any brains is already cutting down as much as possible on the amount of fuel they use just because it is so costly. Improved technology has increased the efficiency of the heating mechanisms they use. Consumption is coming down – just look at the figures listing how many gallons the average family used to burn compared to today. The totals have come down considerably in the past 20 years. Another point that you people fail to consider concerns environmental fallout. I can guarantee you that in this state, if you try to squeeze more dollars from local families trying to keep themselves warm, you certainly will find a decrease in the number of gallons of fuel sold and a HUGE increase in the number of people who will revert to burning wood. Drive around in areas outside of the city and notice how many people are already using the woodstoves that stay outside of the house. They are required to have converters now, but those people are burning anything and everything they can find because this state is full of wood and a lot of it is free for the taking if you are willing to put a little effort into it. That won’t do much to help clean up the environment! Soon you might find smog of a different sort hanging over every village in the state. If you are looking to provide more work for people involved in weatherization, you should start with your list of people who are on fuel assistance. Most of the homes I have visited down here, occupied by people who are on fuel assistance, are sorely in need of weatherization, and they have not been contacted by anyone from the state looking to help with that. You can start with them. In regard to your comment that you “don’t feel this would be a broad-based tax,” I can only hope that you were misquoted. There is not one single person in this state who does not need to pay for some kind of fuel to keep themselves from freezing to death in the winter. This proposed excise tax on fuel will be a terrible burden to those living here and will show, once again, that the people in Montpelier do not have a clue about what the ordinary citizen of this state has to deal with on a daily basis. Spengler is a director of the Deerfield Valley Community Cares fund, which provides fuel assistance to those in need in the area.