Editorial: Better to have no bill than a bad one

In a legislative session initially filled with the promise of progressive accomplishment, the supermajority owned by the Democrats was so poorly managed by the House and Senate leadership this session that the best move at this late stage, with two of the biggest issues of the year yet resolved, may be to call it an impasse and simply adjourn and start anew next session.
The legislature and governor have to approve a budget, of course, but rather than pass a minimum wage or family leave bill that is at best a last-ditch effort to avoid embarrassment, it’s probably best not to poison the well any further.
The Senate’s initial version of the minimum wage bill took it to $15 by 2024; the House countered with some reasonable burdens that would place on the business community in light of a recession and set the annual increases to inflation, which would have delayed the $15 goal by a year under current circumstances, but could have delayed it longer if a severe recession hit — a fairly reasonable concern in light of Vermont’s struggling business community and job losses over the past several years.
In good times, most Vermonters agree workers’ wages need to increase, but in bad times few would agree businesses should be strapped so thin they might be forced out of business. A little common sense in light of a likely recession, makes the House’s version far more realistic.
And realistic is an important benchmark since Gov. Scott is very likely to veto anything that isn’t. And if Democrats can’t even agree on a measure they can support, it’s unlikely they could override a veto. And that would just be egg all over their face.
Besides, at least on the minimum wage issue, there’s not much to lose by a one-year delay. Vermont already has a standard of living increase built into its minimum wage, which is currently $10.78, and will increase again in the coming year. The House’s version of the bill would have essentially increased the minimum wage by a similar cost of living measure.
On the family leave bill, the House and Senate leadership made a tactical error early in the session when they rejected outright the governor’s proposal to raise funding for his family leave proposal through the estate tax. The governor proposed an inferior and unreliable source of funding, but the Legislature could have left it there as a fallback measure in case they couldn’t come up with anything better, which is where they are with adjournment expected this Thursday or Friday. As it is, passing a compromise measure neither House nor Senate members fully support, and whose funding source is not properly vetted, is a recipe for disaster. In short, no bill is better than a bad one.
Is there a graceful way out?
Admit the truth. These are tough issues with many options that have good and bad consequences. The difficulty is agreeing on the right balance of aid to workers without harming and discouraging the business community and future job growth. Most of us understand that. It was only the political hype ahead of the legislative session that made it sound as if both issues could be easily resolved within a blink of the eye.
Angelo Lynn

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