The Vermont Statehouse Insider 2023 – Week 18


It was a whirlwind of a week in the Vermont Legislature. As we write, the House and Senate are on track to adjourn by tonight until a June 20 veto override session. At the beginning of the week, the fate of several major priorities remained in flux. As we reported last week, Governor Phil Scott vetoed S.5, the Affordable Heat Act, and the House and Senate appeared to be in a standoff over the appropriate funding mechanism for childcare.

In a significant breakthrough, the Senate and House appear to have reached agreement on one of the most controversial legislative issues this session: financing the state’s historic investment in childcare. The Senate passed S.56, the childcare bill, earlier in the session, financed with a payroll tax and a repeal of the child tax credit. The House Ways and Means Committee developed an alternative – an increase in corporate and personal income tax rates. After weeks of what appeared to be a total impasse, the two chambers finally settled on a funding plan that aligns with the Senate’s funding preference of a payroll tax but without repealing the child tax credit. On Thursday the Senate amended an unrelated workers’ compensation bill, H.217, with the entire childcare package, including the payroll tax, and passed it. H.217 will be voted on by the full House any minute now.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 20-10 to override the veto of S.5, the Affordable Heat Act, and on Thursday the House followed suit, with a vote of 107-42. Governor Scott vetoed a similar bill, H.715, during the 2022 legislative session, but the House failed by one vote to override that veto.

On Wednesday evening the members of the budget conference committee shook hands on the FY2024 budget bill, H.494. The $8.45 billion budget bill makes key investments in housing, Medicaid provider rate increases and transportation. That total amount includes $231 million in one-time general fund spending, reflecting Vermont has strong revenues but that budget writers are wary of increasing on-going base spending because revenues are projected to dip next year. The bill also raises $21 million in revenue from department of motor vehicle fee increases, which is unusual for a budget bill. Governor Scott has been vocal in his opposition to the DMV fee increases and other spending items in the bill. Here is a link to the Joint Fiscal Office summary of the bill.

A recent development around the budget is that a group of House Democrats and Progressives have indicated to House leadership that they are willing to vote to sustain Governor Phil Scott’s anticipated veto of the FY2024 budget bill. The rift stems from the elimination of the state’s pandemic-era motel voucher program that pays for some of Vermont’s unhoused population to stay in motels.

It remains to be seen how many bills Governor Scott vetoes, if any, but the legislature is scheduled to return on June 20-22 for an override session.

Thank you for following along throughout the course of the 2023 legislative session. We will provide a more in-depth summary of the session in the near future.