KILLINGTON, VT March 3, 2004 (AP by Tim McCahill) - Voting with a thunderous ``aye,'' residents endorsed a plan Tuesday for this ski-resort town to secede from Vermont and become a part of New Hampshire instead.
The overwhelming voice vote opened the next chapter in what could be a long and costly push to join New Hampshire, 25 miles to the east. Ultimately, the vote could prove to be only symbolic. State lawmakers in New Hampshire and Vermont will have the final say. And Vermont legislators said secession will probably be voted down.
``I think the town has to be ready to get in cars and buses and spend a lot of time talking to representatives in Montpelier,'' said Diane Rosenblum, a retiree who moved to Killington eight years ago. Town officials said about two-thirds of the 200 to 300 people who attended the town meeting supported secession.
The main source of discontent is Vermont's new system of financing education, adopted in 1997 on orders from the state Supreme Court. It dramatically increased property taxes in wealthy communities like Killington. Secession activists say Killington's restaurants, inns and other businesses send $20 million a year to Montpelier in sales, room and meal taxes, while the state returns just $1 million in municipal and education aid to the town of roughly 1,000 residents.
``The state is treating us like a cash-cow,'' said David Lewis, town manager. Town officials will now draft a petition to present to New Hampshire Gov. Craig Benson and the state's Legislature. Lewis said town officials want New Hampshire's approval before approaching Vermont's lawmakers. Benson said he was ``tickled'' by Tuesday's vote but doubts Killington will ever become part of New Hampshire.
``How do you take a piece of property completely removed from our borders? How do you connect it?'' the governor told The Associated Press. ``I just don't know how you'd connect the dots.''