As I'm sure everyone knows the Governor vetoed the budget (H518), the state education tax rate bill (aka Yield Bill H509) and S22 the marijuana bill at the end of the regular session. We returned to the statehouse Wednesday to attempt to override the vetoes (which were sustained) then moved on to pass new legislation. Summaries of each are below.
The budget bill (H542) passed yesterday is identical to the version the House and Senate passed on May 18th and vetoed by the Governor, except for three technical amendments. A few highlights of the budget:
Additionally the state education tax rate legislation (originally passed as H509) was added to the budget as an amendment rather than having a separate bill. This bill sets the tax rates for the next fiscal year and has legislation regarding the savings achieved from school employees healthcare plans. Below are the highlights of the passed legislation:
This bill originally began in the Senate so they took up the bill first yesterday. They added language agreed upon with the Governor and voted the bill out. However, rules had to be suspended in the House for us to take up the bill. That vote failed. There is no marijuana legislation this year. I suspect it will be discussed again next session.
So what did I think of the end of session and the veto session? A colleague on the House floor said it well last night "politics got in the way of leadership". I was dismayed at the closed door negotiations the past few weeks and hope that is not a sign of the future. I'm also saddened that teachers were pitted against tax payers. We should be uniting our communities not dividing them. But at the end of the day we have a fiscally responsible budget with tri-partisan support. For that I am very proud of our small state!
If anyone has specific questions or wants to talk, please reach out. 373-0599 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Rep Giambatista and I will be available to meet on June 28th at Nest Coffee & Bakery on Main St from 8:30am to 9:30am. Hope you can join our conversation!
Thank you for allowing me to serve Essex Junction! Have a great summer!
Below is an op-ed by Mitzi Johnson, Speaker of the House, published today. I agree that we passed a fiscally responsible budget that still reflects the values of Vermonters while we prepare for the effects of the Federal budget. I also agree that we need to look at the costs of our education system. To do that right we need a process that ensures our children's needs are the focus while valuing all school workers and respecting all tax payers. What happened at the end of the legislative session is not the right process.
By Mitzi Johnson:
When your state representatives were sworn in Jan. 4, each pledged faithful, honest service to the people and constitution of Vermont.In my opening remarks as Speaker of the House, I asked them to do this by evaluating and prioritizing our state’s needs to support the long-term health and wellness of our state.
Given the vast uncertainty at the national level, and your voices at the local level, your legislators crafted a budget that carefully balances Vermont’s diverse, sometimes competing requests.
We worked across political aisles to find budget reductions. Together we invested in housing, higher education, water quality, economic development, child care and mental health. We put more money into the education fund to reduce pressure on your property taxes and raised NO taxes and fees. We spent less than the projected revenues, building savings that will mitigate uncertainty in federal funds.
The budget invests in Vermont’s future, makes good on our promises, and does so with great fiscal restraint. It passed 143-1 in the House and 30-0 in the Senate. Former Republican Gov. Jim Douglas praised the budget as a “positive step.”
In vetoing the budget, Republican Gov. Phil Scott said no to a morally and fiscally responsible budget, and no to its inclusive, non-partisan process.
In addition to the budget veto, Scott vetoed a property tax decrease in H.509 that would have gone directly to Vermont taxpayers. Two years ago, teachers agreed to move from comprehensive health care plans to high deductible plans with much cheaper premium and much higher out-of-pocket costs.
The teacher health care savings that have been widely discussed come from that already-agreed upon change. It’s happening no matter what the Legislature and governor do. Those savings are already happening in local negotiations. Centralizing those negotiations in Montpelier doesn’t necessarily increase savings — it just makes it easier for Montpelier to raid those savings to spend it elsewhere. We can’t let that happen.
Just how much is the savings on your property taxes? Hundreds or even thousands of dollars? Nope.
Under Scott’s last-minute demands, a home valued at $200,000 would, at most, bring savings to Vermont families of less than $22 each year, less than a tank of gas.
The House and Senate passed various bills that would have guaranteed savings of $25 to $65 a year, but Scott rejected these as well.
A veto of the budget should not be taken lightly. It is the second budget veto in Vermont’s history. If a budget is not in place by July 1, Vermont state government shuts down.
In Vermont we do things differently than in Washington, D.C. We work together, solve hard problems, and help out our neighbors. Our economy and our communities do not need MORE uncertainty. Given that there were other options on the table, $22 is not worth the veto that rolls back the investments we made and throws our state into weeks of uncertainty.
So how would the investments in vetoed budget have helped Vermonters? The $2.5 million increase in child care services for working families could have helped parents get back to work and build a workforce for small businesses. Higher education is a key component of a strong, healthy future, but it is out of reach for many Vermonters. The Legislature’s budget allocated an additional $3 million that would have improved access to the Vermont State Colleges.
The Democratic Legislature earned an “A” grade from the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, which applauded the Legislature’s no new taxes as well as the expanded investments that would have gone to economic development throughout the state in Small Business Development Centers, micro business development, economic development marketing, downtown infrastructure development (known as “TIFs”) and career and technical education.
Appreciating the importance of agriculture and forestry in rural economic development, the Legislature made additional investments in working lands, the farm-to-school program, and the logging sector.
The vetoed budget included a $35 million housing bond that would have generated a $100 million in construction of affordable and middle-income housing.
The Legislature listened to Vermonters underserved by an overwhelmed, underfunded mental health system and made significant investments that would have supported community mental health care and developmental services. We reinforced funding for our home and community based services, including adult day centers and Meals on Wheels. We budgeted significant funds to clean up our state waters.
This is an excellent budget that is the culmination of years of difficult decisions and strong work this session across party lines.
While legislative leaders will continue to work with the administration to find our way through to agreement that restores these critical investments and property tax savings, Vermonters can be very proud of the Legislature’s budget, its tripartisan support and the solid, fiscally responsible investments their Legislature made in our communities, economy and future.