Scott Vetoes Budget, Setting Up a Showdown Over Emergency Housing, Spending | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Scott Vetoes Budget, Setting Up a Showdown Over Emergency Housing, Spending


Published May 27, 2023 at 5:42 p.m.

Gov. Phil Scott - SCREENSHOT
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  • Gov. Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott on Saturday vetoed the $8.4 billion budget passed earlier this month by the legislature, assuring a June showdown with Democratic lawmakers who theoretically have enough votes to override — but are struggling to keep defectors in line.

Scott objects to the price tag of legislative initiatives passed this session, including the $130 million plan to boost the childcare system with a new payroll tax and $20 million in new Department of Motor Vehicles fees.

Scott has said he shares many of lawmakers’ goals, including expanding childcare subsidies and addressing climate change, but disagrees that taxes and fees are necessary. He has accused lawmakers of being too willing to raise taxes on average Vermonters to fund new programs and of ignoring the risk that sharply reduced federal assistance could slow economic growth and reduce state tax revenues.
As the infusion of federal pandemic aid to Vermont dries up, the state should be cautious about expanding services it might not be able to support long-term, he said. “It just makes sense we’re not going to be able to live by the standard that we’ve been living by in the last two or three years,” he said.

Earlier this week, House Speaker Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington) delivered the budget to Scott and called on him to sign it quickly, arguing that it contained desperately needing funding to expand transitional housing programs.

Around 2,800 Vermonters are still housed in motels under a pandemic-era program that is set to end for 730 of them on June 1 and for the balance in July. On Friday, the administration said the deadline would be extended a final time, giving 28 additional days to certain people due to leave in July. Advocates said that was simply not enough.
Following the veto, Krowinski called upon the governor to declare a state of emergency to "address the transition of those in motels and avoid mass homelessness." She added, "This declaration is appropriate for the gravity of the situation and would enable the mobilization of all available governmental and community-driven resources to confront this crisis head-on."

Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Baruth (D/P-Chittenden-Central) said the veto freezes funding to municipalities and agencies tasked with helping those leaving the motels.

"The Governor knows that June is the crucial month," Baruth said in a statement. "He knows very well that the Legislature cannot act until late June; with this veto, he has made continuing uncertainty about [general assistance housing] funding and solutions a certainty."

Lawmakers cut funding for the motel program, but Krowinski has blasted the governor for failing to come up with a transition plan for those affected.
“It is the responsibility of the governor and of the executive branch to ensure the welfare of the state and the health and safety of all Vermonters, and not having a plan for those living in the motels, is a failure of leadership,” Krowinski said in a statement.

Scott has stressed that the motel program needs to end because it is expensive, lacks accountability and fails to keep people connected to key services.

Homeless advocates argued that evicting people was hardly a way to connect them to services and would, in fact, destabilize them and make them harder to track and help.

Fierce objections from Democratic and Progressive lawmakers to the cancellation of the program caused many of them to vote against the budget. It nevertheless passed the House by a 90-53 vote. That's well short of the 100 needed to override a veto.

Lawmakers are scheduled to return on June 21 to try to override the bills that Scott vetoed this session.

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