Gov. Phil Scott announced Tuesday that he will call lawmakers back for a special session beginning next Wednesday, May 23. In a publicly released letter to House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) and Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden), the Republican governor wrote that he hopes to reach an agreement to avert a property tax increase by May 25.
The Democrat-led legislature passed budget and tax bills and adjourned on Saturday, anticipating that Scott, who has demanded lawmakers hold down property taxes this year, would veto both pieces of legislation. Rather than schedule a veto session, the legislature left it up to Scott to call them back for a special session. That means the governor gets to pick the date, but lawmakers won't be limited to voting on bills he vetoed.
Not wasting any time, Scott chose to call lawmakers back to Montpelier before the budget and tax bills have even reached his desk.
The tax bill, which won support from some Republican legislators, would result in an average 2.6 cent increase for residents and a 5.5 cent increase for businesses and second-home owners.
Scott wants lawmakers to use $33 million in one-time funds to eliminate the increase this year. Lawmakers contend that voters approved the school budgets that drive that rate, and buying down the rate this year could lead to a larger increase next year.
Legislators instead opted to use the money to pay down the state's teacher retirement liability, an investment reflected in the budget bill.
Although the 2018 legislative session ended on a bitter note, Scott, in his letter, asserted that "we are very close to an agreement." He asked Ashe and Johnson to meet with him this week to pave the way for a deal next week.
The governor laid out a framework for the upcoming negotiations: He wants the meetings to be held in person, and he wants all proposals and counterproposals to be made in writing and released to the public. Scott also requested that lawmakers focus on the must-pass budget and tax bills and refrain from working on other legislation during the special session.