House Minority Leader Don Turner speaking to reporters after the veto override vote
The Vermont House failed to override Gov. Phil Scott's latest budget veto Tuesday afternoon in a vote that broke almost entirely along partisan lines. A two-thirds majority was needed to override; the final tally was 90 yes, 51 no.
Every Republican present voted to sustain their governor's veto, including those who had previously voted "yes" on the budget bill. Only three Republicans were absent.
There was no debate before the roll call. It appeared that all sides knew how the vote would turn out and saw no reason to delay the inevitable.
Legislative leaders crafted the budget bill, H.13, to include the vast majority of a new spending plan while setting aside the few areas of disagreement with Scott. It would have lifted the pressure of a pending government shutdown, which would happen on July 1 in the absence of a budget. But the governor vetoed the bill because, he argued, it would have done nothing to prevent a statutory increase in nonresidential property taxes. (Democratic leaders have said they would have addressed the automatic increase in separate legislation.)
Quite a few members took the floor afterward to explain their votes, and the arguments broke down along predictable lines. One view was shared by all: A crisis and potential shutdown could have been avoided — as long as the other side had been willing to surrender.
"The budget passed with tripartisan support and only 14 no votes," said Rep. George Till (D-Jericho), referring to an initial House vote in May. He said that holding property tax rates level, as Scott is determined to do, would be "terrible and foolish fiscal policy" that would result in "higher taxes next year."
"The legislature has had chances to advance a real compromise," countered Rep. Kurt Wright (R-Burlington). "The legislature has wasted monumental amounts of time on a budget they knew would be vetoed."
State Senate committees plan to start work Wednesday morning on yet another budget plan. But the divide remains, between a governor hellbent on keeping property tax rates level and a legislature dead set against using available revenue toachieve that. At this point, the middle ground looks more like No Man's Land.
Correction, June 19, 2018: An earlier version of this story misstated when the Senate was to start work on a new budget plan.