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N.H. governor to get Killington's draft secession plan

MONTPELIER -- The town of Killington is pressing forward with plans to secede from Vermont and will present draft legislation to New Hampshire's governor next week.

The town now knows many of the details needed to make the secession happen, Town Manager David Lewis said Friday. He said he had heard there are New Hampshire lawmakers willing to sponsor the legislation, though he said he didn't have names.

Among other things, the legislation would authorize New Hampshire and Vermont to establish commissions that would develop the details of the tax-inspired transfer, Lewis said. The deal also must be approved by Congress.

''The legislation is very straightforward; the process is not very complicated," Lewis said.

Killington residents voted at Town Meeting to secede from Vermont and become part of New Hampshire. They're unhappy with Vermont's 1997 education financing law, which raised property taxes in towns like Killington that are considered property-wealthy.

Killington's problems wouldn't vanish if it were part of New Hampshire; the town still would pay more in property taxes than it received in services, Lewis said.

''We'd be somewhat of a cash cow to New Hampshire," he said.

But an analysis shows the tax penalty wouldn't be nearly as large, he said.

The plan might not fare well politically.

Governor Craig Benson of New Hampshire would have to see a bill approved by the Legislature before addressing the matter seriously, spokeswoman Alicia Preston said Friday.

Governor James Douglas of Vermont isn't enthusiastic about the proposal.

''Killington is an important recreation center," Douglas said. ''It has a key part in our history and heritage, and I look forward to working with the residents of the community to make sure it stays a key part of Vermont."

The Killington Chamber of Commerce hasn't taken a position. Inn owner Bill Vines said secession might create confusion for prospective visitors to the resort town.

''It would make it more difficult to market Killington once the press associated with the transfer subsided," said Vines, who voted for secession in March. ''But it would save businesses a tremendous amount of money in terms of taxes."

Lewis knows there's hard work ahead persuading lawmakers in Montpelier that secession is a good idea.

''I think the State of New Hampshire would be eager to receive us," he said. In Vermont, ''the major issue clearly is one of philosophy and the big-picture item of having a town that's in the geographical center of Vermont, in New Hampshire. They're not going to want to lose that money."

But Lewis, 54, thinks the idea makes sense. He pointed out that Killington, which changed its name from Sherburne in 1999, was originally chartered in New Hampshire in 1761 and is only 25 miles west of New Hampshire. The two states are not that different from each other, he added.

''It's only a mountain ridge away, so it makes sense," Lewis said. ''We're not shopping for Bermuda or Wyoming or something. There's some logic to being part of New Hampshire."

Lewis is to meet with Benson Tuesday afternoon. Lewis said he plans to give Benson a three-page letter outlining details of the change.

Backers of the plan have found no precedent for the secession, Lewis said. Since the vote, questions have been raised about car registration, hunting, plowing, police, professional licensing, and a host of other issues.

All can be worked out, Lewis said.

''Technically it's not very difficult," he said. ''If the State of New Hampshire says yes, the State of Vermont says yes, Congress puts their rubber stamp on it, it will happen. It's not illegal. It's not anything that can't happen, and the technical issues are relatively minor."

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