The Vermont Statehouse Insider 2024 – Week 13


This week, as a spring storm barreled toward the state, House and Senate committees started to unpack the bills they received from the opposite chamber. After crossover, the policy landscape is a bit clearer, as the number of bills and proposals being considered has narrowed and focus zeros in on the legislation that has been prioritized to pass before final adjournment.

While the policy landscape has narrowed the political landscape is as opaque as ever. The Senate is beginning the process of analyzing the broad tax increases the House approved before the crossover deadline. The Senate Finance and Appropriations committees will develop their own proposals over the next few weeks and it will be interesting to see how the Senate version of the FY2025 budget and tax packages will compare to the House.

Governor Phil Scott continues to advocate against the House tax package, saying the proposed increases are unworkable for Vermont taxpayers and businesses. He says increasing the corporate tax, property transfer tax and a tax on high earners will harm businesses, homeowners and cause high earners to leave the state, resulting in the inability to realize the tax revenue. He highlights the compounding impact new taxes will have on top of the childcare payroll tax that will go into effect this summer and projected property tax increases.

The House and Senate continue to work to identify plans to address the ballooning property tax rates. The House Ways and Means committee spent much of the week looking at property taxes and education spending. The committee held a joint hearing with the House Education committee on Thursday, hearing from more than 20 of their fellow Representatives on education spending impacts. The Senate Finance committee will be looking at ways to mitigate property tax impacts in the coming weeks.

On Thursday, the spring storm hit, inundating Montpelier with more than eight inches of wet, heavy snow. Higher elevations had even more snow and as a result many lawmakers didn’t make it to the statehouse.



The Scott administration continued its campaign to secure Senate confirmation for his pick for Secretary of Education – Zoie Saunders. Saunders has received criticism from some Democrats and from education and union lobbyists for her background as an executive for Charter Schools USA and as a senior official in the Broward County public school system. Scott has chided critics for jumping to conclusions before getting to know his nominee. On Thursday the governor’s office released an op-ed co-authored by a number of high ranking administration officials in support of Saunders. Senate President pro-tem Phil Baruth has assured the administration publicly that Saunders will get a unbiased and fair review in the Senate.



On Wednesday, Governor Scott vetoed S.18, a bill that proposes to prohibit the sale of most flavored tobacco and vape products. The bill will now return to the legislature for a potential veto override vote. Scott said that while he has supported bills in the past to tax vape products and increase the age at which someone can purchase tobacco from 18 to 21, he believes S.18 infringes on the rights of adults to make decisions and would result in more illegal online sales and send business to New Hampshire. He also said it would be hypocritical for the state to allow flavored cannabis and alcohol but prohibit flavored tobacco. The bill now returns to the legislature, where it remains to be seen whether there will be an attempt to override.



The statehouse was buzzing with talk about the total solar eclipse that Northern Vermont will experience this coming Monday, April 8. Schools and many businesses will be shuttered on Monday, and legislators, state officials, lobbyists, reporters and other state house regulars chatted throughout the week about plans to watch the rare cosmic event. While the eclipse has generated excitement throughout Vermont, the administration has been focusing on public safety and health related to the event. They have issued travel advisories for the day, urged people to stay off roads to the extent possible and have a public information campaign underway about safe methods to view the eclipse. The state is estimating between 60,000 to 200,000 visitors on Monday to view the eclipse.