The Vermont House has failed to override Governor Phil Scott’s veto of a paid family and medical leave bill by one vote.
House bill 107 intended to create a Paid Family Leave program that would guarantee up to 12 weeks of paid parental or bonding leave and up to eight weeks of paid family care leave. It would be funded by contributions from employers and employees.
Republican Governor Phil Scott vetoed the bill on Friday. He objected to the estimated $29 million payroll tax to fund the program. In his veto message the governor wrote that a voluntary program, which he prefers, is already being implemented and “..can be accomplished more efficiently, affordably and quickly.”
On Wednesday the House attempted to override the veto. During debate prior to a roll call vote Waterbury Democrat Thomas Stevens supported an override. “This bill is a necessary step forward if we in fact care about taking care of our children, our young families, our caregivers, our aging parents and ourselves in a work environment where our economy seems to offer more service jobs than careers, less compensation and more responsibility as well less help, more debt and more stress. Madame Speaker we learned that a vast majority of Vermonters support this program and wish to see it in place. This bill will help us make a Vermont where the tools to make a decent life are available to as many Vermonters as possible and to make the pursuit of that decent life a right and not a privilege.”
St. Johnsbury Republican Scott Beck says the issue isn’t about whether paid family leave is a good idea. “I think probably everybody in this body believes it’s a good idea. The question is whether we should pursue the Governor’s proposal which would provide that benefit for state employees with the ability of businesses and individuals to opt into that program. Or is it to raise a $30 million payroll tax on tax weary Vermonters? And that is the question.”
A two-thirds majority was needed to override Governor Scott's veto. Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson announced that the House had failed the override by one vote. "Those voting yes 99. Those voting no 51 and you have sustained the Governor’s veto.”
A no vote upheld the veto. Following the roll call Shoreham Independent Terry Norris explained why he supported the governor. “I voted no in order to give the Governor time to implement his plan for an optional buy-in plan. I support the concept of paid family leave but I can’t vote to tax every wage earner in Vermont to start a program that no doubt will grow in expense. A tax is a tax and rarely goes away.”
Democrat Jill Krowinski of Burlington indicated that the effort to implement paid family leave will continue. “Today we continued our fight to ensure Vermonters have access to a robust paid family and medical leave program. I voted yes because our plan would improve health outcomes, boost Vermonter’s economic security, and help level the playing field for our small businesses across the state. And while I’m incredibly disappointed that Vermonters are not going to get access to this important program we’ll continue to fight for families.”
The Scott administration is moving forward to implement a voluntary family and medical leave program for state employees and is currently seeking proposals from insurance providers.
Audio is courtesy of the live Statehouse stream provided by Vermont Public Radio.