Payroll tax, other added costs push newspaper to online-only

By Guy Page

When the Legislature passed a new payroll tax to raise $100 million for child care and pre-K education, Gov. Phil Scott and business organizations warned it would harm already struggling businesses.

Last week, the warning became reality. The Enosburg-based [Franklin] County Courier’s 142-year history of providing local news in the three-dimensional, line-your-birdcage-with-it newsprint format ended. The Courier will publish online only (

While emphasizing that cost increases in many areas led to his decision, Publisher Greg Lamoureux holds the new .44% payroll tax partly responsible. 

The tax, a product of H.217 passed this year, requires all employers to withhold .44% (44% of one percent), with the employer paying three-quarters and the employee paying one-quarter. The taxes are paid in the same way that quarterly business income taxes are paid. 

Lamoureux, best known to Vermonters outside of Franklin County for his persistent questions at Gov. Phil Scott’s Covid-19 era press conferences, said the payroll tax was not the only reason he took the momentous decision to go online only. 

“We made the decision that the current business model was not working. Drastic increases in expenses across the board, including new payroll taxes in Vermont this year, made the current model unsustainable,” Lamoureux told VDC this week. 

“We’ll be publishing news online at with posts beginning this week as our website has needed upgrading,” Lamoureux said. 

Under Lamoureux’s leadership, the Courier frequently broke major news stories ahead of its daily newspaper competition, the St. Albans Messenger. For example – the photos and news story about Sheriff John Grismore kicking/restraining with his foot a handcuffed suspect first came to the public’s attention in the County Courier. Since then, every other news outlet has just been playing catch-up on a story that has led to the Legislature convening a controversial impeachment panel – also covered by the Courier.

Even though Lamoureux and former Republican legislator Felisha Leffler were once a couple, most Courier readers find it difficult to determine a political bias in the paper’s news coverage. The paper’s court reporting from the St. Albans courthouse is among the best local cops ‘n courts coverage in Vermont. Sports Editor Ben Kaufmann – son of longtime Messenger sports editor Josh Kaufmann – delivers large helpings of local sports photos and stories, much to the enjoyment of young athletes and their families.

But newspapers are a business, and in Vermont, running a community newspaper gets tougher every year. There’s not a single Vermont-based newspaper printing press. All Vermont newspapers are printed in Quebec, New York State, or elsewhere in New England.

More important, Main Street businesses that contribute most of the vital advertising revenue are still struggling to recover from Covid-era lockdowns, worker shortages, and the consumer migration to Amazon. Faced with choosing to meet payroll or buy advertising, they understandably choose the former. 

Vermont’s new payroll tax took effect July 1. Gov. Scott’s veto of H217 was overturned by the Legislature. Its supporters say the revenue is essential to resolve Vermont’s critical childcare shortage, which is limiting business growth and causing great personal financial difficulty for workers with young children.

Its critics say the tax just adds to Vermont’s already heavy tax, regulatory, and business environment burden. According to the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, “many will pass the cost to consumers, further contributing to the soaring cost of living in Vermont which already hinders the ability of employers to recruit and retain workers. While a 0.44% tax may appear minor in print, its contributions to the cumulative impact of cost pressures and the cyclical nature of the Vermont economy will have repercussions.”

The Courier will continue to do what it does best – report on local government, publish obituaries, print sports photos and game results, and cover local courts ‘n cops without fear or favor. But you won’t find a copy at the local store or in your mailbox. As with so much else, you’ll need to go online.

Categories: Media

11 replies »

  1. This no doubt, won’t be the only small business that will be forced out of the state by our know nothing legislators! Progressive colleges are a wonderful thing!

  2. Just imagine how that tax will go up year after year to cover the costs of giving raises to the “hero’s who care for your kids.” This new tax is a boondoggle, and I would rather my kids were cared for by the quality care that USED to be found among small, next door neighbors and not government warehouses…..make sure you know how your Representatives and Senators voted on H217…you can find it here:
    My Representative has lost my vote…

  3. More chum to the sharks, Guy?

    Simple math would indicate that H.217 had little to no impact on the decision to discontinue the print edition of The Courier besides, “Save a Tree”.

    Regarding H.217, who out there can afford to give up Mom or Dad’s contribution to the family income to stay home with the kids? Step right up with your solutions. Will a change in VT government make all of our problems go away and give every Vermonter a big, beautiful raise?

    • How about s5? Do you hold the same “no biggie” attitude? Don’t. I’m out. And I’ve been here for a quarter of a century. I will NEVER pay a dime toward a “punishment” tax to any governmental body for living life as a FREE individual. Yeah, Vermont is going to “save the world”, all whilst China builds a brand-new coal power plant every week, India pumps massive amounts of toxins into the atmosphere, and most of the countries in the Middle East savagely beat and murder their innocent female citizens for exposing their hair. Yuppers, Vermont’s got it going on. What a travesty. What a joke. What psychopaths in office here.

      • If I am correct, H217 will create more childcare options for working mothers and fathers. Since childcare cost my partner and I $800 a month back in the 1980s, we would have joyfully contributed one-third of .044% of our salary (even the entire .044%) towards a state fund to create more or better childcare options for us.

        What is your problem with that and why use this as a springboard for another harangue about “everything”?

        Once again, if you dont like H217 or H5, then y’all put forward a roster of Republican candidates who will garner enough votes to take over the Vermont legislature. As an Independent, if I agree with their platform, I will absolutely cast my vote in their favor. As I am partially disabled, I will have to cast my ballot by mail.

      • Re: “Since childcare cost my partner and I $800 a month back in the 1980s, we would have joyfully contributed one-third of .044% of our salary (even the entire .044%) towards a state fund to create more or better childcare options for us.”

        That’s likely because ‘one-third of .044%‘ of your salaries was less than the $800 a month you spent on child care. What you’re really saying is that ‘we would have joyfully’ accepted other taxpayer’s money to subsidize our own lifestyles.

        Re: ‘What is your problem with that…?”

        The problem is two-fold – at least.

        First, with the government subsidy, you would have less incentive to live within your means and/or improve the efficiency of your lifestyle.

        Second, you assume that the government can provide childcare services more efficiently than you can – when, if anything, the government has shown us, over and again, how inefficient it is at doing anything.

  4. Remember when Vermonters would chortle about our neighboring State to the South, Taxachusetts? Who is laughing now? Vermont, the land of the modern Pharaohs, despots, and death merchants. Reprehensible satanic leadership we have here and their day is coming – retribution boomerangs incoming. Declared and decreed!

  5. Vermont only needs to look at Montpelier as to why more businesses are moving out of State or closing!! Never seen a Democrat pass up a way to take more money out of our pockets! They will not be happy until we have to have the State support everyone as we will work for no money.
    Then they will say we don’t qualify for any help as we make too much!

  6. As a subscriber to the County Courier, I am saddened that it will no longer be printed. I like local newspapers. The St Albans Messenger only comes out 2 days per week. Yes, well established businesses are suffering from the high costs of doing business in Vermont. Most of our legislators in Franklin County tried to hold the line on new taxes and regulations but the democrats in the legislature are blind to the sufferings of the Vermont people. The democrats think they are helping the people by adding more and more government help. But somebody has to pay for that help and that is the taxpayer because the government has no money. Right now, I see Vermont is dying. Well established businesses are closing, farms are closing, churches are closing, and the news today spoke of closing Vermont hospitals. The resent flood damage will add to demise of Vermont businesses. I wonder if there is any hope for Vermont’s future. It looks grim to me. I’m glad I can read Vt Daily Chronicle.

Leave a Reply