With tax revenues down 1.8% in fiscal year 2017, the state government had to rely more heavily on government service charges, which increased by $54.9 million, to $808 million.
Many of these “service charges” are basically a type of tax. If you want to own and drive a car, you need to pay registration fees and driving license fees. If you want to perfect a security interest, you need to pay UCC filing fees. If you want to fish or hunt, you need to buy a license. If you want to work in some 50 designated professions, you need a business license from the state.
In the table below, The Informed Vermonter has attempted to identify all the Service Charges earned by Vermont’s state government.
Vermont State Government Service Charges ($ millions)
|Service Charge||Fiscal Year 2017||Fiscal Year 2016||Change in 2017|
|Other Business Activities||5.5||8.7||(3.2)|
|Rent & Lease Receipts||5.1||5.3||(0.2)|
|Sales & Service Charges||12.3||12.6||(0.3)|
|Fines & Penalties||13.6||18.3||(4.7)|
Source: Vermont Comprehensive Annual Financial Report Fiscal Year 2017 and 2016
Much of the above is self explanatory, but a few clarifications may be helpful.
Unemployment Compensation: All employers are required to pay unemployment compensation insurance taxes. In fiscal year 2017, tax receipts greatly exceeded claims paid (Vermont now has only a 2.9% unemployment rate). The excess of $74.3 million is not available for state government expenditures. Instead, it is deposited in a trust fund for the benefit of future claim payments when unemployment rates could be higher.
Liquor Control: The operating costs of Liquor Control are almost equal to its revenues. It contributed only $2.3 million of operating income to the state’s coffers in fiscal year 2017.
Lottery: After payouts and operating expenses, the state lottery contributed about $25.5 million to the state government.
Fees: It would appear the state government raised fees in 2017, as they increased by 45%. There are a wide variety of fees charges by the state. Every level of the judiciary, from the Small Claims Court to the Supreme Court, imposes a variety of fees. There are fees to access and copy all manner of public records. There are a large number of recurring business registration fees, UCC filing fees, Amusement Ride Fees, Telemarketer Registration Fees, Fantasy Sports Operator Fees and Administration Fees. The list goes on and on.
Non-Business Licenses: Automobile licenses represent the largest share of this category, which are dedicated to fund the Agency of Transportation. Hunting & Fishing license revenues are also in this category, and those revenues all go to the Agency of Natural Resources.