How to Fund Clean Water? State Treasurer Advises

A new report released January 15, 2017 by the Office of the State Treasurer puts forth recommendations to the Vermont Legislature on potential mechanism to provide financial resources for water quality restoration projects over the next 20 years. The Clean Water Report identifies what amount of money is appropriate for the State to contribute to the Clean Water Fund, and how those long-term contributions should be funded. 

Water quality problems striking Lake Champlain and other watersheds of Vermont have been caused by excess nutrients and pollutants running off Vermont's landscape. A long-term funding source is needed to invest in projects that will contribute to a systematic change of how we develop and work with the land. The outcome of such investments are redesigned buildings, infrastructure, and working lands practices that contribute to drinkable, swimmable, fishable waters.

Major findings and recommendations from the report include:

  • The estimated gap between current revenues and funding sources and the amount of money needed to properly address water quality problems is approximately $62 million per year (for 20 years, or a total of $1.5 billion).
  • The Office of the State Treasurer recommends a State contribution of $25 million per year to the total additional dollars needed to implement projects (about 40% of total annualized costs).
  • Several suggestions have been laid out to target use of existing resources to address the funding gap. If existing resources cannot be leveraged, the recommendation agreed upon by most constituents was for the Legislature to consider adopting a flat parcel fee or impervious surface fee on Vermont properties.
  • The Treasurer’s Office routinely considers what is best for the taxpayer. Cleaning our waters now is the best value to the taxpayer. Deferring action will only result in a greater eventual cost to the taxpayer.
  • Over 1,000 participants from more than 23 meetings and outreach events contributed ideas and dialogue integrated into this report.

A major water quality improvement bill passed in 2015 (Act 64) required the State Treasure to produce a report for the Vermont Legislature with funding recommendations for sustaining the Clean Water Fund. The temporary source of revenue for the fund---a property transfer surcharge---will sunset by July 2018. Key contributors to the funding report include the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Taxes.

For more information on the Clean Water Fund and the report development process, see the DEC Clean Water Funding page