August 2001 Press
For Immediate Release Contact: Martha Trombley
Secretary of State Markowitz To Return
Lobbyist Tax Money
Montpelier. Today, Vermont Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz announced that her office would be returning approximately $265,000 in lobby tax money that her office had been holding pending the outcome of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of that tax. Earlier this summer the Vermont Supreme Court struck Vermont's Lobbyist Tax as an unconstitutional restriction of speech and the right to petition one's government. See Vermont Society of Association Executives v. James Milne, and In re HomeBuilders Association of Northern Vermont, Inc. The Attorney General has decided not to further appeal this decision.
Secretary Markowitz said, "now that the court case is fully resolved we have informed all lobbyists and lobbyist employers that they will be receiving a refund of any lobbyist tax they might have paid. To make the process easier, we have decided to waive the need to request a refund." In addition to a return of taxes paid, the state will pay interest at a rate established by the Vermont Commissioner of Taxes.
All taxes paid will be refunded with interest by September 15, 2001.
Vermont's lobbyist tax went into effect in January 1998 as part of the state's 1997-campaign finance law. Among other things, that law set strict limits on the amounts individuals could contribute to candidates or political parties and on the amounts the candidates could spend. Last year, a federal judge in Burlington overturned some elements of that law in a decision now under appeal.
The lobbyist tax was created to help pay for public financing of governor and lieutenant governor campaigns.