Three days before the start of a new fiscal year, Gov. Phil Scott has signed a state budget into law, but looming federal cuts could upend Vermont’s financial apple cart.
The main focus of the closed-door meetings will be the three bills Scott has vetoed: the budget, property tax and pot legislation.
The House clerk said the budget and property tax bill vetoes needed to come in separate letters. Scott’s spokesperson called the rejection “hyper-political.” The clerk’s office later accepted resubmitted versions.
Lawmakers, lobbyists and the media were complaining the session was boring until Gov. Scott rolled out his proposal to negotiate with teachers statewide over health care benefits.
The leaders of the Vermont House and Senate said they have directed their caucuses to get some rest. Meanwhile, the governor sought to assure Vermonters that he would not allow a government shutdown.
Lawmakers left Montpelier without reaching a resolution with the governor over his proposal to change teachers’ health care benefits negotiations. Lawmakers set aside time in late June to return to Montpelier for a special Legislative session.
If Scott vetoes the budget, he will be both vetoing his own housing bond and delaying the effective date of his proposed housing tax credits.
The budget sets aside $9.8 million to boost salaries for workers in local mental health care agencies and gives $4 million to the state colleges, which are in “dire financial straits.”
The budget passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee includes increases for state colleges, childcare and more.
Support was overwhelming for the $5.8 billion spending plan. Proposed amendments would have funded new investments in child care, job training and more, but most didn’t go anywhere.
The fiscal plan does not raise any new taxes or fees. Democrats said it was crafted with expected federal cuts in mind, while Republicans credited the governor’s leadership.
Four Republicans on the House panel support the budget proposal, even though it rejects GOP Gov. Phil Scott’s plan to tap money from the Education Fund.
Lawmakers found savings across state government from a variety of projected efficiencies, including $2.5 million in cuts to the Agency of Human Services grant program, which distributes more than $100 million a year to 1,200 nonprofits around the state.
The biggest bite comes in the form of a $5 million revenue package. Lawmakers say the package is not raising new revenue but increasing compliance with existing tax law.