Increasing Legislative Compensation (S.224) - Jan 24, 2024

On Wednesday the Senate Government Operations Committee did a walk-through of a new bill, S.224, that would increase legislative pay to 110% of the statewide median wage and add a benefits package.

The latest version of the bill would create a new Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for healthcare expenses that would mirror what is available to state employees.

Legislative leaders would enjoy year-round compensation for their roles and receive more of a bump than “normal” legislators. The bill would also allow legislators to take paid leaves of absence and make changes to how expenses are reported. Additionally, a new working group will be formed to look at additional compensation and benefits, staffing, and other legislative prerogatives.

See a full summary of the bill.

Chairwoman Hardy pointed out that they have been asked to remove the section related to the flexible spending accounts. Apparently, the ability to maintain an FSA system for part time workers (AKA legislators) is so complex and expensive that it is unworkable. She also informed Senators that she learned minutes before their meeting that off-session pay is being removed from the bill as well.

The Joint Fiscal Office reviewed a fiscal note of the bill. For FY2025, the estimated impact to the state’s General Fund is $1.3M. For comparative purposes, the current expenditure for legislative operations is $22.37M. Legislators are currently compensated $589 per week, this would increase to 1/52 of the mean Vermont annual wage (plus the 10% inflation factor), which for 2022 would have been $1,252.

Mike Fisher (Chief Health Care Advocate, Vermont Legal Aid) took the chair to answer any concerns regarding legislator eligibility for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Senator Vyhovsky asked about the thresholds and for individuals. For people under 150% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) premiums start from zero and increase as their percentage of FPL increases.

Senator Clarkson brought up expanded Medicaid options that may extend coverage to legislators.

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