Gov. Scott vetoes budget and property tax bill
MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday vetoed H.518, the state budget, and H.509, the property tax bill.
In his veto message, Scott said he was rejecting the bills because lawmakers failed to pass his proposal to save $26 million on teacher health care. He also cited other problems with both bills.
“At the beginning of the session, I challenged the Legislature to give residents and businesses a break from new or higher taxes and fees in all bills passed this year. I also urged the Legislature to join me in the work of making Vermont more affordable in every way we can,” Scott wrote. The two bills, he said, “fail to achieve these goals and as a result, I cannot support them as written.”
Lawmakers will return for a special session June 21. There do not appear to be enough votes to override the vetoes. Republicans hold 53 seats in the House, enough to sustain a veto in the 150-member chamber.
Scott has promised to sign a state budget before the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1.
He has said the state has a “once-in-a-lifetime’’ opportunity with all current teacher health care plans ending Jan. 1.
Chief of Staff Jason Gibbs told Cabinet members: “The governor is committed to reaching an agreement for the June 21 veto session that ensures Vermonters — and Vermont’s economy — benefit from this unique savings opportunity. When we do these bills will be improved significantly, the state will be more fiscally secure, and Vermonters will be better for it.”
In a statement late Tuesday, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson argued that the Legislature has done much to ensure Vermonters’ financial well-being.
“Our budget raises no new taxes and fees,” she said while listing investments in housing, higher education, water quality, economic development, child care and mental health. “It’s disgraceful that Gov. Scott would say no to these critical investments with his budget veto.”
Johnson said teacher health care savings are already accruing as a result of local negotiations and are returned to taxpayers in the property tax bill. “With his second veto, the governor vetoed a property tax decrease that would have gone directly to Vermont taxpayers,” she said, adding that he has called for a bill “that gives second homeowners a tax cut.”
Scott and lawmakers were in negotiations that extended the legislative session by several weeks as the two sides tried to work out a compromise. Scott insisted that contract negotiations over teacher health care needed to be done on a statewide basis to achieve uniformity and maximum savings.
Democratic leaders, including Johnson and Senate President Tim Ashe, decried the last-minute nature of Scott’s proposal. Other lawmakers and the teachers union said the proposal would undermine collective bargaining by moving health care negotiations from the local to the state level.
The governor had until Wednesday to veto the property tax bill and faced a Thursday deadline to veto the state budget.
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