It appears Vermont will avoid a government shutdown. With the July 1st fiscal year deadline approaching, Governor Phil Scott has decided to allow the third version of the budget that legislators have sent him to become law, but he’s not signing the fiscal plan.
In a statement issued late Monday, Republican Governor Scott said he would allow Vermont’s $5.8 billion budget bill to become law without his signature because he “…will not put the health and safety of Vermonters or the stability of our economy at risk. While I do not support raising any tax rates in a year we have a $55 million surplus, this debate has gone as far as it can responsibly go. I’m left with no choice but to allow this bill to become law without my signature.”
House Minority Leader Republican Don Turner says the caucus had met with the governor late in the afternoon to discuss options. “I’ve been there a long and it was disappointing in that the majority wasn’t willing to negotiate. And it’s unfortunate that in the end here you know nobody wins and loses in Montpelier. The winners and losers are Vermonters who are going to be losers from my perspective because of the increase in the non-residential property tax. So it’s very disappointing that the majority took this approach and mainly the Senate. I feel that the Senate Pro Tem had no was not willing to negotiate at all and it’s it’s very disappointing.”
Following the governor’s decision to allow the budget to be enacted, Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Senate Pro Tem Democrat/Progressive Tim Ashe issued a joint statement expressing relief that even if the governor would not sign the bill, it will be enacted and state government will remain functional.
Lieutenant Governor Progressive David Zuckerman says Governor Scott had few choices left since a veto would likely have led to a shutdown. “The legislature went more than half way if you look at straight dollars and cents and also went further on some policy pieces that the governor had slipped into the discussions at the last minute. Had he vetoed this budget we would be barreling towards a government shutdown. And considering that on policy this budget , like the past budgets, actually had just about everything in it that he had asked for along with fixing the problems that he had inserted in his original budget, because it covered everything he need, I think it needed to become law.”
Middlebury College Professor Emeritus of Political Science Eric Davis says both sides can claim wins and losses in the final version of the budget. “Both sides can take credit for the fact that the bill that the Governor will let become law makes some adjustments to the state income tax that will hold harmless those households adversely affected by the Trump tax cuts. The bill freezes the residential statewide property tax rate for another year. So everyone can claim credit for that. In terms of giving things up the governor had to break his no new taxes or fees pledge and the legislature had to agree to include more one time money to buy down those property tax rates than they initially wanted to.”
Vermont’s new fiscal year begins on July 1st.