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House overrides minimum wage veto

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House on Tuesday voted to override Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of a bill that would raise the minimum wage from $10.96 to $12.55 by 2022.
In a 100-49 vote, Democrats were able to just meet the two-thirds majority needed to counteract Scott’s veto pen. The Senate successfully voted to override the veto of the legislation, S.23, earlier this month, meaning the wage increase will now become law.
Six out of the eight House Democrats who opposed the minimum wage legislation on the floor in January changed their votes Tuesday, delivering the support needed to enact the legislation.
The vote was a victory for Democrats and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, who failed to reverse the governor’s veto of a paid family leave bill by just one vote earlier this month.
All of the Addison County Democrats voted to override the veto. Reps. Harvey Smith, R-New haven, and Terry Norris, I-Shoreham, voted against the override.
The question of whether House Democrats would be able beat the veto and rally the votes to enact one of their party’s largest priorities loomed large over the Statehouse in the past few weeks. 
Like the governor, some Democrats have concerns that the mandated wage increase could harm small businesses and put stress on the rural economy.
The vote marks the first time that the Democratic Legislature has successfully reversed a governor’s veto pen since 2009, when the House and Senate overrode then-Gov. Jim Douglas’ vetoes of both a state budget and Vermont’s landmark same-sex marriage bill.
Johnson said House’s action on Tuesday “reaffirms the Legislature’s commitment to Vermont’s working families.”
“Gradual increases in the minimum wage help ensure Vermonters have the economic resources to support themselves, which puts more money into Vermont’s small businesses and helps our communities thrive,” she said.
Citing a study from the Joint Fiscal Office, Scott reiterated his opposition to the wage hike in a statement issued Tuesday on the grounds that the negative impact on the overall economy “will outweigh the positive benefits, especially in our more rural areas.”
Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe praised the House victory in a statement. “Today is a day to celebrate. Tens of thousands of Vermonters who work hard each and everyday can look forward to two pay increases.

PAID LEAVE OVERRIDE
The question of whether House Democrats would be able beat the veto and rally the votes to enact one of their party’s largest priorities loomed large over the Statehouse in the past few weeks. 
Like the governor, some Democrats have concerns that the mandated wage increase could harm small businesses and put stress on the rural economy.
But on Tuesday, all but two of the eight Democrats who opposed the bill earlier this month voted to enact the legislation. Reps. John Gannon, Charlie Kimbell, Theresa Wood, Dan Noyes, Lucy Rogers, and Sam Young changed their votes to override the governor’s veto.
Young, D-Glover, said the fact that the House recently failed on the paid family leave override changed his thinking.
He said he voted for the override to the show Scott that Democrats can rally support to reverse the veto pen and push the governor to come to the negotiating table with lawmakers. 
“If he knows that we can override a veto he has to actually negotiate. Get in the room, start talking about stuff, and propose alternatives,” Young said. “He could have made the bill better.”
According to the Joint Fiscal Office, there are 40,000 jobs in the state that currently pay less than $12.55 per hour. Over a two-year wage phase-in, workers making less $12.55 would receive $5,000 more in take-home pay.
Rep. Lucy Rogers, D-Waterville, who voted against the legislation in January out of “a deep amount of fear for the businesses” in her community, said she still has concerns with the minimum wage increase. 
But said she voted to override the veto on Tuesday to acknowledge that “the House as whole has backed the legislation with strong support” and also recognize the compromise House and Senate Democrats made on the legislation last year.  
The minimum wage bill that originally passed the Senate last year would have raised the wage to $15 over four years.
The House and Senate eventually agreed on $12.55 increase over two years, to assuage the concerns of more moderate Democrats who are worried about the impact of the increase on the rural economy.  

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