Vermont Governor Discusses Legislative Disagreements And Scheduled Special Session

May 16, 2018

Will Vermont lawmakers return for a special session next week? At his weekly press conference this afternoon, Vermont Governor Phil Scott discussed his move to call legislators back to Montpelier May 23rd. The Republican is promising to veto the-just passed state budget and property tax bill.

The Democratically-controlled Vermont Legislature adjourned Saturday night despite Republican Governor Phil Scott’s promise to veto the budget.  Legislators did not schedule a veto session, forcing the governor to call a special session.  On Wednesday, Governor Scott wrote to leaders that such a session would begin May 23rd.   He reiterated that he has maintained since before he was sworn-in that he will not accept any bills that increase taxes or fees.  “So to the surprise of no one and certainly not the Legislature I cannot support the budget and revenue bills that together increase property tax rates by nearly $34 million especially when we have options. I do not make these decisions lightly but I cannot support higher taxes in a year we have $160 million more in new money as compared to last year. That’s 82 million from organic economic activity, 34 million in unanticipated funds from the Attorney General’s tobacco settlement, and 44 million in additional and unanticipated revenue recently added to the budget.”

One element of contention is how the state should use one-time money. Scott wants to reduce tax rates and believes there would be substantial savings over five years.  “I believe that we have a plan that makes a lot of sense, that it makes a lot of sense for taxpayers in particular. And if we move forward with the plan that we have there will be savings along the way and we believe $475 million worth of savings as the plan is initiated today.”  

Just as the governor began his press conference, Senate Pro Tem Progressive/Democrat Tim Ashe released a letter to Scott reinforcing many of the comments he made Tuesday to WAMC.  “No one can understand what the Governor is talking about as to regards to the budget.  It grows slower than his own budget. It restores some of the quite awful cuts he was proposing, ah, there are no fees in it. And so the Governor on that one we’re at a loss. And behind the scenes in the Statehouse Republicans, Democrats, administration officials, lobbyists, no one can understand what the governor is talking about on the budget.”

In his letter, Ashe tells the governor there is no reason for a special session if he signs the budget and tax bills into law.  The Pro Tem also emphasized that legislative leaders will not negotiate behind closed doors   

Lieutenant Governor Progressive David Zuckerman released a separate statement Wednesday afternoon also urging Governor Scott to sign the money bills and make a special session unnecessary.

Audio from Governor Scott’s press conference is courtesy of Vermont Digger.