Democrats link Scott’s housing priorities to budget enactment - VTDigger
 

Democrats link Scott’s housing priorities to budget enactment

Tim Ashe

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe speaks to the press Wednesday about negotiations with the governor. Photo by Michael Dougherty/VTDigger

House Democrats have decided to make passage of two of Gov. Phil Scott’s top priorities contingent on him signing the state budget that he said Wednesday he “will not hesitate to veto.”

Democrats have inserted language on a $35 million housing bond — a top priority of the governor’s — into the budget bill, H.518.

They have also decided to make key parts of an economic development bill — which contains Scott’s requested tax credits for affordable housing — “effective on date of enactment of FY 2018-19 budget.”

The strategy means that if Scott vetoes the budget, he will be vetoing his own housing bond and delaying the effective date of tax credits he has publicly supported to spur affordable housing development.

For the past several weeks, Scott has vowed to veto H.518 if Democrats, who control the Legislature, won’t pass a law requiring teachers to negotiate their health care benefits on a statewide basis. Scott has said the move will save $26 million, while Democrats have accused him of union busting.

Democratic lawmakers declared an impasse with Scott on Wednesday, saying that Scott is more interested in interrupting collective bargaining than saving money. That left lawmakers bracing for the promised budget veto.

Negotiations between the governor, Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe continued Thursday morning with no conclusion.

“I think it is a way for people to say ‘If you want your housing initiative, it’s in the budget, so if you want your budget, you get your housing bill,” said Rep. Sam Young, D-Glover, the vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee who also sat on the conference committee for the housing bill.

Young said he’s fine with adding the housing bond to the budget bill, but “It really wasn’t my decision. My goal was really just to come to an agreement on the housing package.”

Under the deal reached on the housing bond, the state will still divert $1 million per year in clean water funding to pay for the housing bond. The clean water funding mechanism, which was scheduled to sunset in 2018, would be extended to 2027.

Scott said Wednesday he had not researched what would happen if he vetoes the budget. He said he remains confident one will pass before the start of the fiscal year.

S.135 allows a state-level economic development council to create six new tax credit districts using the education fund. The bill also allows municipalities to create the “tax increment financing” districts using money not tied to the education fund.

“I think it’s to say, ‘Here’s the work. You’re the governor. Do what you think,’” said Rep. Bill Botzow, D-Pownal, the chair of the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee, who sat on the conference committee for S.135.

“Including the effective date, I’m happy with the bill,” Botzow said. “There are several things that really are helpful.”

Erin Mansfield

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  • Tim Vincent

    If you want to make an omelette, you gotta break an egg.
    Stand firm, Governor.

  • Tom Pelham

    Here’s an article by Mike Smith that documents based on their 2015 audit that over $191 million in outstanding loan receivables are owed to the Vt. Housing and Conservation Board.

    http://www.rutlandherald.com/articles/judging-from-appearances/

    Rather than issue additional bond authority, these receivables can be used for either new affordable housing investments or for clean water efforts like Lake Champlain. Yet, as the article notes, VHCB is lax in collecting these loan repayment. Yet, this $191 million of taxpayer money can cover a substantial portion of the new demand for affordable housing investments and lake clean-up projects.

    Should the legislature play hard ball with the Governor, who appoints the majority of Board members to VHCB, the Board can instruct VHCB staff to end the practise of extended loan repayments beyond their original term, then use a small portion these proceeds to fund new projects as the Governor recommends. This practice of essentially extended loan repayment obligations is likely in violation of IRS tax credit regulations to which these loans are often tied and therefor a potential state liability if they remain uncollected.

  • Jason Brisson

    So if the housing bond gets vetoed with the rest of the budget, does the money go back to cleaning up Lake Champlain?

  • Jamie Carter

    Wow… Mitzi and Tim are taking a flailing Democratic Party and adding another weight to the anchor. I mean at this point it’s blatant. They are blatantly protecting the VNEA at the expense of taxpayers to the tune of $26M. And what’s more… now they are holding $35M in low income housing hostage to do so. Help the poor? Nope not if it means upsetting the teacher’s union. $8000 worth of campaign contributions is worth way more to Tim then $35M is to low income Vermonters struggling to put a roof over their heads. And heck, a house race in the islands, union will cover that one in its entirety. Thats well worth a measly $26M to property tax payers. I suppose the teachers union and these two get along so well because teachers are used to dealing with petulant children.

    • Ann Manwaring

      Lost in the brouhaha over how teacher benefits are negotiated, whether
      state or local, is that of the $26 million proposed by Gov. Scott only half is used to achieve teacher health care savings, the same as all the other proposals floated. The other half, another $13 million, is mandated new program spending burden on schools 67% of which will be paid for with property taxes.

  • Mary Alice Bisbee

    This sounds like a pretty good compromise to me. Apparently there are too many issues tied up in teacher’s health care financing to do a simple last minute turn around. I believe Sen. Ashe is correct in offering the opportunity for a study committee to look into teacher’s health care accounts and come up with some way to separate out all “benefits” that are negotiated by the union from a streamlined state health care plan that would help put all Vermonters in the same boat.
    . My hope is that if teachers are not given Cadillac plans at the expense of other tax payers and even other non teaching school staff, there really needs to be a longer look at how the so called “savings” can actually be realized.
    We do need TIF districts and affordable housing and taking money out of the education fund to pay for it would go a long way toward raising salaries and thus tax monies to pay for these community enterprises.

    Governor Scott, sign the big bill, H. 518 as passed!

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