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Vermont Governor Defends Budget Veto

Vermont Governor Phil Scott  (file photo)
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Vermont Governor Phil Scott discusses budget veto

Vermont Governor Phil Scott was grilled about his decision to veto the state budget yesterday at his weekly press conference in Burlington today.
On Tuesday, Vermont Governor Phil Scott vetoed H.509, the property tax bill, and H.518, the state budget. The first-term Republican rejected the legislation because his proposal to change the way the state negotiates teacher contracts was not included.  
Governor Scott wants the state, rather than local school boards and districts, to take over teacher contract negotiations.  He says it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to save property taxpayers statewide $26 million.  But the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate have failed to come to a compromise with the Republican governor and adjourned the session.

The budget veto risks a state government shutdown if a spending plan is not approved by July 1st.  A special session is planned on June 21st and Governor Scott is adamant there will be a solution to the stalemate. “We’ll have a budget come July 1. We’re not going into deficit spending or we’re not going to shut down government. We’ll have a budget.  But I’m confident that we can come up with some resolution in between now and the 21st that will get us there.”
WCAX reporter Kyle Midura:  “Even if it means you giving up your position?”
Scott:  “We’ll have a budget one way or another.”

All school districts are renegotiating health care contracts because all expire on January 1st and Scott says switching to state-level agreements is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  “That’s the danger that they continue to get settled and we don’t, aren’t able to take advantage of the benefits that present themselves to us. I think we need some more uniformity in Vermont.  We just need to make sure that they’re all the same so that we can again take advantage of the situation that we  find ourselves in, reap the $75 million, be able to give $50 million back to the teachers and employees so that they’re held harmless.  So I think there’s a resolution somewhere.”

The Vermont affiliate of the National Education Association was specifically targeted in the governor’s veto message, which said “…thus far the VT-NEA has shown great resistance to any change in the bargaining dynamic and to sending savings back to taxpayers.”  Vermont NEA Spokesman Darren Allen says the governor’s veto is in reality an effort to curb collective bargaining.   “We have consistently said that local school boards working with their local educators  have been doing this for 50 years and have reached agreements 5,000 or so times.  What the governor wants to do is pure and simple Washington D.C. style attacks on collective bargaining and on educators.  And frankly it’s also an attack on local control and on local school boards.”

Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson is at a National Conference of State Legislators leadership conference this week.  In a statement issued Tuesday, she says, in part: “It’s disgraceful that Governor Scott would say no to these critical investments with his budget veto. Teacher health care savings are already accruing in local negotiations and are already returned to Vermont taxpayers in the yield bill.”

Full Statement From House Speaker Mitzi Johnson On Governor's Veto of the Budget and Yield Bill:

“This session, the House and Senate passed a strong, fiscally responsible budget, earning nearly unanimous, tri-partisan support. Our budget earned the praise of Governor Scott in March, and just last week, a nod from former Governor Douglas. Our budget raises no new taxes and fees. It increases savings to protect against an uncertain future. We invested in housing, higher education, water quality, economic development, childcare and mental health, well within our means. It’s disgraceful that Governor Scott would say no to these critical investments with his budget veto. Teacher health care savings are already accruing in local negotiations and are already returned to Vermont taxpayers in the yield bill. With his second veto, the Governor vetoed a property tax DECREASE that would have gone directly to Vermont taxpayers. It is unconscionable that the Governor would veto these bills and the valuable investments they make while demanding a new bill that gives second homeowners a tax cut.
Additionally, under Scott’s demands, a home valued at $200,000 would bring Vermont families savings of less than $22 each year, less than a tank of gas. I don’t believe that is worth the veto that will roll back the investments we made and throw our state into weeks of uncertainty.
We must continue to stand up for Vermonters in these uncertain times. This includes ensuring that our values are represented in the legislation we pass and the decisions that we, as elected representatives, make. Vermonters have much to be proud of in this legislative session."


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