Veto Session Wrap Up

The veto session was called to order today. The Governor vetoed three bills this year, the FY18 budget, the FY18 yield/tax rate bill, and a bill to legalize marijuana. The veto session process triggers a series of procedural debates, including whether the House should sustain or deny each veto.

While the Governor vetoed the bills earlier in June, the Governor and legislative leaders worked out a compromise to address their differences on June 20. Thus, the following motions were procedural in nature.

I voted against the Governor’s veto of the yield/tax rate bill. The vote was 83 yes and 56 no. In order to override the Governor’s veto, 93 votes would have had to be cast yes. I voted yes.¬†I also voted against the Governor’s veto of the budget. The vetoed budget, which passed the House and Senate with near-unanimous support in March and April, made significant investments in Vermonters without raising taxes or fees and honoring commitments to pay obligations and maintain reserves. It did not raise property taxes or income taxes or use new fees, and it proposed less spending¬† and stayed below the projected revenue growth rates for FY18. In other words, this bill was, as the Governor said in March, a bill to support. The vote was 84 yes and 55 no. In order to override the Governor’s veto, 93 votes would have had to be cast yes. I voted yes.

Once the budget veto failed, we returned later in the day to take up a modified budget that incorporated elements of an agreement reached between the Governor and the General Assembly. The vehicle to ratify the agreement was an amendment that added provisions to set the yield/tax rate and review the viability of a statewide teachers’ healthcare contract. This proposal closely mirrored the tax rates originally set by the House — these are the rates that determine property taxes. A formula was also proposed to achieve school savings within the education fund. The Education Fund reserves were increased. Finally, the allocated portion of sales tax that is directed to the Education Fund was reallocated from 35% in FY18 to 36% in FY19 to provide property tax relief. The amendment passed with a near-unanimous voice vote. The amended bill passed by a similar margin, ending the long saga of the budget veto.

Next, the House received an amendment to H.511, which included consensus language developed by the Governor and Chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to legalize marijuana effective July 1, 2018. I voted to support suspending the rules so we could take up this bill, and the Governor’s proposed modifications. The requisite 3/4 majority to obtain a rules suspension failed. With neighboring states moving forward to legalize marijuana, Vermont should take proactive steps so we address the issues that will arise with marijuana at our borders. While this bill did not advance this year, I think we should continue to research a model to legalize, regulate, and prevent illegal transactions of marijuana on the black market.

The veto session concluded with mixed results. There were pros and cons. I’ll write more about the session, the bills that passed, and our successes and failures in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to call me at (802) 734-8841. I’m always happy to chat.