The Vermont Statehouse Insider 2024 – Week 3


This week legislative committees continued to review new bills and bills carried over from 2023. It felt a bit like the calm before the storm as Governor Phil Scott will deliver his FY2025 budget proposal on Tuesday, January 23. The Republican governor and Democratic legislators have sparred overspending since 2023, when the legislature overrode the governor’s veto of the FY2024 Budget.

As of Friday evening, the House Appropriations committee was still working to finalize their draft of the Budget Adjustment Act (BAA). This bill, usually one of the first significant pieces of legislation passed each year, amends the current fiscal year’s budget. The committee aims to have it approved by noon on Monday. The bill will then go to the House floor.

On Thursday the Emergency Board (E-Board) met to update Vermont’s revenue projections. The E-Board is a special committee that includes the governor and the chairs of the money committees (the House and Senate Appropriations committees, House Ways and Means committee and Senate Finance committee.) Tom Kavet, the legislature’s lead economist, provided some good news, telling the committee Vermont is projected to have $33.9 million more in revenue in FY2024 than was expected when the E-Board met in the summer of 2023. This includes a $29.3 million increase in General Fund revenues, a $9.7 million increase in Education Fund revenues, and a $5.1 million decrease in Transportation Fund revenues. The E-Board agreed to a consensus revenue forecast based on these projections. For FY2025, revenues are still expected to grow in the General and Education Funds but at a slower pace. The Transportation Fund is expected to continue to decline. Kavet said while things are better than expected six months
ago and the runway is in sight for a “soft landing” for the economy, there is still a lot that can go wrong.

Discussions on the aftermath of Vermont’s 2023 flood events and recovery strategies dominated the legislature again this week. Residents of Barre City, many of whom are still displaced, visited the statehouse to engage with lawmakers. They emphasized the ongoing nature of the July crisis and the increased likelihood of similar events. Barre and Montpelier have been actively seeking both short-term and long-term recovery funds for all Vermont communities affected by such disasters. Both cities have passed a joint resolution supporting the Omnibus Flood Relief bill, proposed by Representatives from Montpelier and Barre City.

State Auditor Doug Hoffer has filed an unprecedented legal action against Attorney General Charity Clark. This lawsuit, filed in Chittenden County Superior civil court, stems from a disagreement between the two statewide offices about a legal opinion requested by Hoffer during an audit of Burlington’s tax increment financing. He is demanding a court ruling on the Attorney General’s obligation under the law to provide legal opinions to state officers. The Attorney General’s Office has moved to dismiss the case, arguing the lawsuit is legally baseless and a waste of resources. They emphasize that the auditor’s duties do not include suing state officers. The dispute highlights a broader question about the attorney general’s duty to offer legal opinions upon request, a service Hoffer claims was routinely fulfilled by Clark’s predecessors.