#43 Vermont

 
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The overall freedom ranking is a combination of personal and economic freedoms.

 
#43
 
Overall
Change
-3
From 2009

Vermont State Overview

State Facts


Net Migration Rate (?) -0.2 % 
Personal Income Growth (?) 1.00 %
How does the freedom ranking relate to these?

Analysis

Like Maine and New Mexico, Vermont conforms to the generally mistaken but still common view that so-called “blue states” intervene extensively in the economic realm but are more relaxed when it comes to personal freedom. Vermont’s economic freedom score is quite poor, but it is nearly a top-10 state for personal freedom.

Vermont’s fiscal policy ranks among the worst in the country. It has the fifth highest level of taxes in the country (at 11.1 percent of personal income). Property taxes are high, and selective sales taxes, largely aimed at tourists, bring in more as a percentage of the economy than in any other state except Nevada. Vermont is also one of the most fiscally centralized states. However, its debt levels are better than average.

Vermont scores slightly below average on regulatory policy and is mediocre in many specific areas such as tort abuse and labor market freedom (its minimum wage is higher than the federal one even when adjusted for personal income). It scores very poorly on health insurance freedom. Vermont has adjusted community rating for health insurance and imposes numerous coverage mandates. The state also has below-average respect for property rights. Eminent domain reform is inadequate and residential land-use regulations are onerous. Vermont does well on occupational freedom and utility deregulation. Occupational licensing is not as extensive as it is in most states, and licensing fees and requirements are lower than average.

Vermont ranks 11th in personal freedom largely due to its respect for the individual right to bear arms, its embrace of same-sex civil partnerships, and its above-average score on freedom from victimless crimes.1 Vermont allows open carry and concealed carry of firearms without a permit. The state’s incarceration rate is higher than might be expected, but its drug enforcement rate is quite low. Vermont also scores well on asset forfeiture rules. Yet there is still much room for improvement. Gaming laws are well below average, and it does poorly on some travel freedom policies such as helmetless motorcycling and sobriety checkpoints. Vermont also authorizes DNA samples to be taken from all felony arrestees. Like Utah, Vermont has full state control of alcohol distribution. However, its effective alcohol tax rates are lower than average. Its marijuana laws are above average; the state has a medical marijuana exception and low-level cultivation is a misdemeanor. Campaign finance limits remain quite strict. It ranks among the worst states for tobacco freedom. Smoking bans are extensive, and cigarette taxes are high.

Policy Recommendations

  • Drastically reduce state aid to schools (repeal or amend Acts 60 and 68) to decentralize taxation and make schools more accountable.
  • Better protect property rights by enacting further eminent domain reform, loosening land-use restrictions, and lowering property taxes.
  • Decriminalize marijuana possession.
1. Vermont had same-sex civil unions from 2000 until 2009. It now has same-sex marriage, which was approved legislatively and took effect on September 1, 2009.
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