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Vermont House Fails To Fast Track Budget Bill

Vermont Statehouse 2018
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Vermont Statehouse 2018

As the budget dispute continues in Vermont, a proposal has been offered that would avert a state government shutdown.  But an effort to fast-track the bill in the Vermont House failed to receive enough votes on Wednesday.
Vermont Governor Phil Scott vetoed the budget and property tax bills and brought the legislature back for a special session to resolve contested issues.  House Bill 13 removes the areas of dispute between the Republican governor and the legislature and retains agreed upon budget provisions.  Its intent is to allow lawmakers to continue negotiating with the Scott Administration over property taxes and the use of one-time funds while ensuring that there is no shutdown of state government on July 1st.   During the House session Wednesday Democrat Jill Krowinski moved to fast-track the bill for consideration.  “The state of Vermont must stay open. And so Madame Speaker I move that the House suspend rules in order to take up pending action on the notice calendar for immediate consideration H.13 An Act Relating to Making Appropriations for the Support of Government.”

The non-debatable question was put to a roll call vote.  A number of legislators explained their vote prior to the announcement of the results.  House Speaker Mitzi Johnson: “Member from Danville.”
Democrat Catherine Toll: “It is critical we join together to support suspending the rules in order to take up H.13: the 2019 state budget. Every day we fail to work together erodes the faith Vermonters have in our ability to work together to pass critical legislation. Every day we fail to work together jeopardizes the fiscal health of the state.”
Speaker: “Member from Burlington.”
Republican Kurt Wright:   “I voted no. This suspension of rules does nothing to move us forward.  What we need is to get into the appropriate committees and work on the Governor’s proposal and come up with legislation that avoids further vetoes.  This bill as proposed does not accomplish the goal of holding the line on taxes or avoiding a government shutdown.”

The question failed to achieve the necessary ¾ votes to pass.  Middlebury College Professor Emeritus of Political Science Eric Davis says the House will likely pass the measure on Friday.  “The Republicans’ and the Governor’s position right now is they need to have some leverage with negotiations with the Legislature. The real question over the next three weeks, or four weeks, is not H.13 it’s a choice that really is going to come to the Governor.  Is he going to come up with a new proposal that could get a majority of the votes in the House and Senate or is he going to come to the table and start to engage in serious negotiations with the House and Senate leadership?”

Once the House passes the measure it will move to the Senate. Pro Tem Progressive/Democrat Tim Ashe says the governor is using the budget as an anvil over legislators’ heads to achieve what he says are unpopular policy proposals.  “Along with the Speaker I have made it very clear we will not have a government shutdown and the bill that is being worked on in the House right now is a bill intended to keep government open on July 1st.  And we very much hope that the House Republicans will see it for what it is, which is a consensus bill that will allow us to fight over the remaining disputes the Legislature has with the governor but give the assurance to the public that government will be open for business.”

Audio from the Vermont House is courtesy of the live web stream provided by Vermont Public Radio.

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