2017 Legislative Wrap Up
The 2017 legislative session adjourned on May 18. A number of important initiatives were developed and passed into law. Throughout the summer, I will make an effort to post updates about some of the new policies that will soon go into effect. Please be in touch if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions. I can always be reached at (802) 734-8841 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the chaos in Washington DC has dominated much of the conversation in state legislatures across New England, I took up my work with an eye toward working with folks from across the political spectrum. I made a point to listen to all views in our community and around the State House. It was a real privilege to represent Essex Junction in the Vermont House. There were many issues that came before the legislature that brought me into contact with neighbors from all across the community. I relied heavily on your feedback and am grateful for your insight, ideas, and candor. When I ran for State Rep, I promised neighbors I’d do my best to reach out and share information about the proceedings at the State House. I made my best effort to capture my daily voting record, which you can find here. Likewise, we held monthly community forums and posted weekly updates on Front Porch Forum.
As you might imagine, the biggest proposal that passed the legislature this year was the annual budget bill. With all the uncertainty states face from the new leaders in Washington DC, I am proud of the budget passed by the House and the Senate. We made significant investments in Vermonters without raising taxes or fees and honoring commitments to pay obligations and maintain reserves. The budget does not raise property taxes, income taxes, or use new fees. It stays below the projected revenue growth rates for FY18.
The House listened to Vermonters who are suffering from an overwhelmed mental health system and made significant ($8.3M) investments in mental health care and developmental services. We reinforced funding for Vermont’s home and community based services, including Adult Day Centers and Meals on Wheels. We invested in Vermonters who are trying to work and made new investments ($2.5M) for child care services for working families — this includes $300,000 to bring child care subsidies to the 2017 federal poverty level, and using $2.2M for the Childcare Financial Assistance Program with a focus on care for infants and toddlers.
We listened to Vermonters needing an affordable education and provided an additional $3M to the Vermont State College system and $880,000 to enable the cost saving unification of the Lyndon and Johnson State Colleges. The budget invests in economic development through expanded support of Small Business Development Centers, Micro Business Development, economic development marketing, and career and technical education. Knowing the value of supporting work in rural Vermont, the legislature also made additional small investments in working lands, Farm to School programs and the logging industry.
The budget passed by the House and Senate put Vermont in a position for continued success. It found a way to make significant investments for Vermonters without raising additional revenue. Indeed, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce awarded legislators an A for our work this year.
There is still work to do, though. We are prepared to return to the Statehouse in October if needed to deal with potential fallout from dysfunctional leadership in Washington DC. I look forward to having the summer and fall to share with you the work we’ve been doing in Montpelier, and to gathering your feedback before we return to close out session. I’ll be hosting meetings and coming to you through the rest of the year.