Imagine that you are 20 years old and live in a family that has given you the privilege of a trust fund. You are told that when you turn 60 that the money will no longer be available to you.
You can ignore the passage of time or you can prepare for the day when you will have to fend for yourself. This situation is similar to that of the town of Vernon. The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant was licensed to begin operating in 1972 and its operating license was due to end in 2012. It will be closing in 2014.
That's a long time to plan for the future, but it seems that the town that often wanted the state to leave it alone is now begging for help because they found it too irresistible to live the high life for decades.
It all comes down to taxes and the low tax rate that Vernon residents have become accustomed to over the years. The money kept pouring in from the plant and that is why this little town has a municipal swimming pool and its own police force. Now they find they cannot afford these luxuries that other towns have never even dreamt of.
According to recent comments in the Brattleboro Reformer by Rep. Mike Hebert, R-Vernon, the town School Board did do some planning to cushion some of the loss of revenue from Vermont Yankee. Yet, they are still asking for a break in their school tax rate.
A reasonable town would have started planning for the plant closure from day one. That is the Yankee tradition, but it seems that the tradition of frugality did not take hold in this town that has acted like an independent republic for years.
I ran for state representative twice from the district that includes Vernon and Guilford and I can tell you that after going to almost every home in Vernon and Guilford that the town of Vernon can seem like another country.
When I tried to engage people in conversation about a variety of topics I found that the majority of people wanted to know what I thought about Vermont Yankee. When I expressed my opposition to its continued operation, people would either politely end the conversation or slam the door in my face. A number of people became quite hostile.
I have spoken to others who have made the same political journey and the experience left such a bitter taste with them that they will never run for that office again. Greed does strange things to people and I believe that greed has transformed a small Vermont town.
Vernon is now asking the state for help to soften the blow that decreased tax revenue will have. According to a story in the Brattleboro Reformer last week, Hebert has introduced a bill, H.835, that "would add another layer of insulation for local taxpayers." Its statement of purpose is to "alter the tax treatment of towns hosting an electric-generating plant subject to the electric-generating tax" -- in other words, Vernon. He explained that the legislation actually would continue a long-term tax break that "saves all Vernon property owners money."
"Because Entergy pays a state electric-generating tax based on power produced at Yankee, and because the town hosts the plant, Vernon property owners at one point had to pay just half the statewide education-tax rate."
Another bill, H.842 introduced by Rep. Charles "Tim" Goodwin, I-Weston, would give a tax break to former Vermont Yankee employees who want to open a business. That means that you and I would make up the difference for people who salaries averaged $100,000 a year and now want our help to start a new life.
These bills don't pass the smell test. When I first read about them I was reminded that some people use greed and privilege to form the ethical and moral foundation of their lives. I just can't believe a person who has made so much money over the years, or a town in the same position, cannot pull up the old bootstraps and muster enough self-reliance without asking for those of lesser means for help.
It is un-American and it defies principles embodied in the tradition of Yankee ingenuity.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse and long-time health care advocate. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.