Serious Work of Session Begins

With three weeks under its belt, the Vermont legislative session is beginning to take shape. With legalization of recreational marijuana dispensed with, attention has returned to many of the “pocketbook” issues facing the state and its residents.

Last week, the administration and lawmakers got some good news in regard to revenue forecasts. State economists are now projecting an $8 million increase in revenue for the current fiscal year and a potential $30 million increase for next year. After a number of revenue downgrades over the past 10 years, any change to a positive forecast is welcome news. The economists, however, suggest their forecasts are soft and that the state should use caution given the uncertainties on how the federal tax changes will impact Vermont going forward.
On Tuesday, Governor Scott will be delivering his Budget Address to a special Joint Assembly of the House and Senate. He is expected to reiterate his call for no new tax or fee increases for the second year in a row. This pledge comes in spite of proposals to institute a state carbon tax, paid family leave funded by a new payroll tax, new funding for clean water and estimates of a significant increase in the statewide property tax. There is a strong likelihood of confrontation between the executive and legislative branches before the session is over this spring. There are already rumors of potentially two, not one, dates in June for veto sessions (Veto sessions are necessary when the Governor vetoes a bill and the legislature returns to either override the veto or adopt new legislation to address the Governor’s concerns.)
On a side note, I proposed legislation to institute electronic roll call voting in the Vermont House. With the average roll call vote taking 15-17 minutes apiece (each of the 150 House members are called upon to vote in alphabetical order), it is my belief that we could save at least 10 minutes during each vote and over the course of a session, perhaps save a few days and get our business done early. The Rules Committee, comprised of leaders from both major parties and chaired by Speaker Johnson, tabled the proposal for now. They did, however, agree to continue researching the idea. To my way of thinking, if we are interested in Government being efficient, as well as open, then perhaps we should set an example with this one small common sense step. 

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