Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday vetoed legislation that would have raised Vermont’s minimum wage to $15 and established a paid family leave program.
The high-profile vetoes came as the governor grappled with a midnight deadline to determine the fate of more than three dozen bills. In total, according to a spokesperson, Scott signed 38 bills into law on Monday and Tuesday; he allowed two to become law without his signature, and he vetoed four.
Scott previously vetoed legislation regulating toxic chemicals, and he is expected to do the same to the state budget and tax bills.
The legislature likely won’t be able to override the governor’s vetoes because Democrats in the House lack the two-thirds majority required to do so.
Scott’s decision to veto the minimum wage and paid leave bills came as no surprise. He expressed his opposition to both measures throughout the legislative session. But the move is nevertheless a blow to two signature progressive causes. The vetoes drew immediate rebukes from Democratic lawmakers and advocates.
In a statement reacting to the fate of the paid family leave legislation, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) said, "Unfortunately, the Governor today ignored the needs of working families and vetoed a bill that would sustain Vermonters against hard times."
The program would have been funded through a payroll tax on employees, and Scott had said he would oppose any new tax or fee. “While the goals of this legislation are admirable,” the governor said in a statement accompanying his veto, “it simply is not responsible to impose a new $16.3 million payroll tax on Vermonters.”
As for the minimum wage measure, Scott said, “I believe the bill is more likely to harm those it intends to help, weaken small businesses and the economy as a whole, and deepen the economic inequality that exists between Chittenden County and other counties in the state.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) slammed Scott’s minimum wage veto in a Facebook post: “Amazingly, as a result of the Governor’s veto, Walmart will have a higher minimum wage than the State of Vermont. On economic and moral grounds, the Governor’s veto is an enormous disappointment.”
Scott also vetoed S.197, which would have made it easier for individuals exposed to toxic chemicals to compel responsible companies to pay for related medical expenses. And he vetoed S.105, which would have prevented companies from including "unconscionable terms" in contracts — such as requiring someone to travel to a distant location to bring a claim against the company. Both bills met with fierce resistance from a number of business groups, which expressed concern that S. 197 and S. 105 could expose them to a raft of lawsuits.
The governor allowed two other bills — H.636, a miscellaneous fish and wildlife bill, and H.764, which imposes a $100 registration fee on data brokers — to pass into law without his signature, even though the latter would appear to violate his no-new-fees dictate.
In a statement, Scott made the case that, while the fee is being newly applied to an industry, it is “the standard fee charged by the Secretary of State, Office of Professional Regulation for other regulated businesses and, therefore, is not new.”
Among the 38 bills Scott signed into law Monday and Tuesday were several that lawmakers thought he might veto. Those included S.289, meant to protect net neutrality, and S.260, a waterways cleanup bill that legislators diluted during the final days of the session.
A full list of the bills signed, vetoed and passed into law without signature this week is below:
S.40 An act relating to increasing the minimum wage
S.105 An act relating to consumer justice enforcement
S.197 An act relating to liability for toxic substance exposures or releases
H.196 An act relating to paid family leave
Allowed to Become Law Without Signature:
H.636 An act relating to miscellaneous fish and wildlife subjects
H.764 An act relating to data brokers and consumer protection
S.225 An act relating to pilot programs for coverage by commercial health insurers of costs associated with medication-assisted treatment
S.260 An act relating to funding the cleanup of State waters
S.289 An act relating to protecting consumers and promoting an open Internet in Vermont
H.25 An act relating to domestic terrorism
H.132 An act relating to limiting landowner liability for posting the dangers of swimming holes
H.378 An act relating to the creation of the Artificial Intelligence Task Force
H.404 An act relating to Medicaid reimbursement for long-acting reversible contraceptives
H.410 An act relating to appliance efficiency, energy planning, and electric vehicle parking
H.526 An act relating to regulating notaries public
H.554 An act relating to the regulation of dams and the testing of groundwater sources
H.562 An act relating to parentage proceedings
H.603 An act relating to human trafficking
H.639 An act relating to eliminating cost-sharing for certain breast imaging services
H.660 An act relating to establishing the Commission on Sentencing Disparities and Criminal Code Reclassification
H.663 An act relating to municipal regulation of accessory on-farm businesses and to hemp cultivation
H.676 An act relating to miscellaneous energy subjects
H.684 An act relating to professions and occupations regulated by the Office of Professional Regulation
H.710 An act relating to beer franchises
H.718 An act relating to creation of the Restorative Justice Study Committee
H.727 An act relating to the admissibility of a child’s hearsay statements in a proceeding before the Human Services Board
H.728 An act relating to bail reform
H.731 An act relating to miscellaneous workers’ compensation and occupational safety amendments
H.736 An act relating to lead poisoning prevention
H.739 An act relating to energy productivity investments under the self-managed energy efficiency program
H.806 An act relating to the Southeast State Correctional Facility
H.859 An act relating to requiring municipal corporations to affirmatively vote to retain ownership of lease lands
H.874 An act relating to inmate access to prescription drugs
H.894 An act relating to pensions, retirement, and setting the contribution rates for municipal employees
H.895 An act relating to legislative review of certain report requirements
H.899 An act relating to a town fee report and request
H.908 An act relating to the Administrative Procedure Act
H.910 An act relating to the Open Meeting Law and the Public Records Act
H.912 An act relating to the health care regulatory duties of the Green Mountain Care Board
H.916 An act relating to increasing the moral obligation authority of the Vermont Economic Development Authority
H.917 An act relating to the Transportation Program and miscellaneous changes to transportation-related law
H.925 An act relating to approval of amendments to the charter of the City of Barre
H.926 An act relating to approval of amendments to the charter of the Town of Colchester
H.927 An act relating to approval of amendments to the charter of the City of Montpelier