VNPA Lobbyist Update - week of 6/3/2018
NO END IN SIGHT
The second week of the special session of the Vermont General Assembly came to a close on Friday with the governor and legislative leaders still at an impasse over education finance and budget matters.
Last Friday Governor Scott officially vetoed the budget bill (H.924) and the tax bill (H.911) that the General Assembly passed in the regular session because the bills raise property taxes. The key disagreement is whether $34.5 million in surplus revenues should be used to buy down property tax rates or reduce teacher retirement obligations.
This week the House Appropriations Committee advanced a new budget bill, H.13, that is similar to the budget bill passed in the regular session except it removes the provisions the Governor finds objectionable, adds some non-controversial income tax provisions from the vetoed tax bill (H.911) and adds a “default” non-residential property tax rate. Their intent is that the House could pass a budget bill that everyone agrees to so that a government shutdown can be averted and the “controversial” issues can be addressed in a separate bill.
This new budget bill quickly ran into a brick wall in the House Republican caucus and with Governor Scott because the “default” non-residential rate could raise property taxes. The Republicans would also lose a lot of leverage to negotiate on the second bill if it were to pass. The governor has said he will veto H.13, the new budget bill, according to Republican Minority Leader Don Turner, R-Milton.
The House gave preliminary approval to H.13 by a 86-44 vote on Friday and will come back on Tuesday, June 5th to give final approval to the bill. The House Republicans may offer an amendment to the bill on Tuesday but at this point there is no clear path forward.
It’s difficult to know how closely Vermonters are paying attention to these dynamics. It’s the start of summer and many Vermonters are more focused on the nice weather than what is happening in Montpelier. For those that are following this closely they are witnessing one of the most contentious political debates in recent history.
There are accusations and charges being levied by Governor Scott and his staff at Democratic leaders and many members of the Democratic and Progressive caucuses and visa versa. The debate and disagreements are more charged than ever and with social media being such a critical component of political dialogue these days, many of the more nuanced fights are occurring in an arena that everyone can follow blow-by-blow.
The Senate doesn’t plan to reconvene until the House passes a budget. We will provide a full report of the Special Session when it ends.