I am Vermont Poor

Peter Miller, peter@petermillerphotography.com 25 August

We Vermonters who work for ourselves are suffering. Let’s put it this way. The average Vermonter has very little disposable income. State, town, school taxes and fees, property and school taxes, the 5th highest electrical rate in the country, above average costs of fuel oil, propane and gas make us downright poor. Our state government is spending more than it takes from us

Vermonters who have read my book, A Lifetime of Vermont People, email or visit. “We love Vermont,” they say, “we have family here, but our pension is too small.” Some sell, some can’t find a buyer. Younger people leave the state looking for decent paying jobs.

Vermont statistic trackers say enough new comers are moving in to balance the disenfranchised that are leaving. The head on this Forbes article, from last April, says it all: Tax Happy Vermont Becoming A State Where Only The Rich Can Afford To Live.

The rural Vermont culture of self-government, earning enough to get by and that inner sense of being a Vermonter is being replaced by a homogenized, wealthier, more sophisticated “transplant”. Some of these new Vermonters adapt beautifully to our Vermont Way, as I have. Many, though, carry their home state on their backs when they arrive. They want dirt roads paved and fancy sport facilities. The need dog parks and larger police department that will respond to calls when somebody they don’t recognize walks near their home.

They have deeper pockets than the self employed Vermonter so they buy homes and tear them down to put up larger and more expensive structures. They apply for town positions or are elected to the state legislature and create new bills to raise the cost of living. A new culture is nudging out our rural way of life. Long time residents from New Hampshire and Maine who have stopped in my Waterbury gallery say that is also happening in their state. .

I am a writer and photographer and my professions have been mangled in this century by the digital revolution. I started an Airbnb and decorated the rooms with my photographs and installed a photo library. Even so, I had to borrow to pay my property tax, the first time since I have been filing in this state since the 1950’s. And you know, I prefer writing and photography to being a chambermaid!

I have a new book project because of comments made to me by stressed-out Vermonters.. The Vanishing Vermonter, The Loss of a Rural Culture, will be published in the spring of 2017. So far I have interviewed and photographed nine people who expressed their thoughts on this “new” Vermont. How will I pay for it? I will crowd fund and put up on my blog sections of the book as I write them. (www.petermillerphotography.com).

Paul Hannon-7

Paul Hannon Master Mechanic N. Randolph

Paul Hannon is a mechanic who for 30 years has owned a garage in North Irasburg. He is the first person I interviewed for The Vanishing Vermonter. When we ended our interview he said, with a sigh,

“I am losing hope”

Vermont is a bellwether state. Our canary in the cage is gasping, our lead sheep is bleating. The hope and pride of my people has become fragile.

1 Comment

  1. Angela on September 25, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    It’s an unfortunate truth, and one that we too have experienced. While we weren’t native to Vermont, we moved there last year with the hope of living in the most beautiful state imaginable. It was far too expensive to live there and we had to move out of state to a place much more financially feasible. I will miss Vermont and all the beautiful people we met when we lived there. I hope things will turn around for you.

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