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Weekly Legislative Update: April 6, 2023

This past week our busy schedule continued as we worked and debated several important bills that are introduced each session to allow for Vermont to continue to run.

Among these bills were:

H.479, Transportation Program and miscellaneous changes to laws related to transportation. This bill updates transportation laws and follows the Governor’s direction very closely. However, at the last moment $22 Million in DMV fees were added to the bill. This bill was not meant to be a fee bill. Some of these fees will see a 20% increase. Vermonters cannot afford additional increases to these fees. We voted no.

H.492, An act relating to setting the homestead property tax yields and the non-homestead property tax rate. H. 492 set the property dollar equivalent yield amount at $15,477.

This is a must pass bill, the Legislature votes on annually to ensure that our Education funding matches what voters have told us they want to spend on their local schools. The income dollar yield was set at $17,577. The non-homestead property tax rate was set at $1.38 per $100 of equalized education property value. The bill also set aside $22,000,000 in unused funds to help reduce next year’s tax rates.

H.494, The Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations Act; the Budget, also known as the ‘Big Bill’.

The good news: The budget was balanced, and all reserve funds were filled and appropriated with several one time appropriations for one time purposes. The big investments were made where they are most needed in housing, childcare and paid family leave. The bad news: This budget completely disregards the budget presented to us from the Governor, earlier this session. Governor Scott had proposed a balanced and responsible budget that created a plan for spending next year that would not have increased revenue needs. His suggestions built a budget without increasing taxes or fees.

The budget for fiscal year 2024 came in at $8.53 billion, this is the largest budget ever in our state’s history. This bill passed out of the Appropriations Committee on an 8-4 vote, a party line vote.

A few important notes to be made: One third of the paid family leave bill cost have been reserved, but as a one time appropriation. So, the Legislature proposes a Paid Family

Leave Program but only funded one third of the costs, using one-time money; hoping Vermont will have enough in out years to fund it. Not to mention the fact the Governor HAS a Paid Family Leave Program, fully vetted which begins July 1st of this year! The Governors Paid Family Leave program does not cost the state $112 million dollars to start, with ongoing expenses including 65 new employees. Additionally, the Governor’s plan does not take on any of the risk and all liability falls on the third-party insurance provider. The State will take on all risk in the Legislature’s Paid Family Leave Plan.

The Budget also included money for S.5 the Clean Heat Standard and the Legislature’s Childcare Proposal which could add up to $500 million dollars annually, moving forward. While money was reserved for different programs Match money for projects funded by the federal government were not included.

If left unchanged the budget base amount will increase 12%, which Carolyn has made known is the highest percentage in her nearly 2 decades in the Legislature. The use of one-time money for ongoing costs is unsustainable. Reminder, we could have filled all needs without increasing taxes or fees, as proved by the Governor’s budget proposal.

Unfortunately, that advice was ignored. We hope that once in the Senate, the Budget is reduced back to a responsible plan for our State. Keep in mind our state economists predict a 7% inflation next year. We both voted no.

As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns. We want to hear from you.

Thank you,

Rep. Carolyn Branagan

Rep. Ashley Bartley

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