MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – Protesters nationwide demanded lower taxes on Wednesday. A group in Vermont can’t get enough of them.

Calling itself S.O.S., or Save Our State, the group held a small pro-tax protest in Montpelier, the national income tax-filing deadline, to drive home that taxes pay for needed programs and state employees perform necessary duties.

About two dozen people crowded around the state Tax Department’s help window while organizers turned in single-signature petitions, designed to look like a tax form, that organizers called SOS-EZ forms.

They list 17 state programs that could be kept whole with what organizers say would be a modest tax increase.

“It’s not just a day to worry about taxes; we value our institutions and the programs the state offers,” said S.O.S. organizer Chris Curtis, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid. “We can’t pave our own roads. We can’t keep our own courthouse doors open. It’s frustrating that some days of the week the courts are closed.”

The protest came as thousands of demonstrators gathered nationwide for anti-tax rallies modeled on the original Boston Tea Party.

Dennise Casey, a spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, said he remained steadfast in his opposition to new taxes, but that taxpayers have the option to give the state more than legally required.

“I am assuming that all of these individuals who are advocating for paying more taxes have led by example by paying more taxes today,” Casey said. “As for struggling Vermont families, the governor is opposed to higher taxes.”

The Douglas administration has proposed cuts to state programs and hundreds of job cuts as a way to close an estimated $200 million deficit to the $1.1 billion budget.

Cutting those programs amounts to a tax, said Peter Sterling, executive director of the Vermont Campaign for Health Care Security Education Fund.

“That’s a tax on people making less than $38,000 a year,” he said. “Let’s just say that right up front.”

AP-ES-04-15-09 1659EDT

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