The pension bill is now in the Governor's hands after the Senate gave final approval on Friday. He will be faced with a choice to approve a bill he has criticized in recent weeks as not going far enough to address the pension deficit or accept the incremental progress that the bill offers.
We are also, by the way, waiting for the Governor to sign the ethics bill which passed over a week ago...
After the House more or less accepted Governor Scotts plan to return half of the $95M property tax surplus to taxpayers, the Senate may not be so quick to jump on the bandwagon. After testimony this week they seem inclined to reject the 20 cent decrease to property taxes in favor of providing funding for both PCB remediation and universal school meals.Read more
This week Campaign for Vermont introduced an extensive list of workforce development recommendations to the legislature covering a number of bills in motion, including H.703, H.159, S.226, and S.234. As a state we must recognize the issues before us and view them with clarity. Economic vitality is critically linked to workforce participation, recruitment, and housing. Our businesses are starving for workers and those that can move elsewhere will if the problems become worse – hampering the long-term prospects of our state. We cannot practically solve the housing crisis quickly enough to correct some of these issues, however, moves we make now will have profound impacts on that outcome and the equity of our housing system and even the broader economy in years to come.
The public pension reform bill is headed to the House Floor next week after the state treasurer poo-pooed a defined contribution plan for new hires. The current solution being offered only addresses less than half of the pension deficit and disproportionately impacts taxpayers. The legislature will need to come back for more in future years. At the same time, the legislature is considering pension divestment of fossil fuels, benefits for interim educators, new pension groups, and other measures that could actually have a negative impact on the deficit.
Two education initiatives - Student Weighting Factors and Universal School Meals - also passed key committee votes this week and are anticipated to hit the House Floor in short order.Read more
There was lots of action this week as the legislature heads into its final month of the session. The ethics bill passed the House unanimously this week and is now headed back to the Senate where we expect final approval before being sent to the Governor.
In a surprise turn of events, the House is now considering the pursuit of defined contribution plans for new hires. This has the potential to address the remaining $2.3B in unfunded liability that will remain in our public pension funds if S.286 passes (the bill currently only addresses about $2B of the $4.3B overall liability).
Workforce, housing, and economic development bills are all progressing towards final passage but there are concerns around "poison pills" added by environmental advocates that could draw a gubernatorial veto. All three of these bills are critical to addressing Vermont's short and long-term economic challenges.Read more
The bill creating a statewide code of ethics is headed to the House floor this coming week after the Government Operations Committee agreed with most of the provisions we and others asked for.
Pensions are heating up again, on multiple fronts. The "benefits overhaul bill" is being worked on in the House and there are two bills in the Senate that could negatively impact pension liabilities. One that would divest fossil fuels from the investment portfolios and another that would potentially allow retired teachers to temporarily come back to work while retaining their pension benefits.
Other bills, such as workforce development and housing are also gaining steam in the House and Senate. We are likely to see those bills move to the floor in the next week or two.Read more
While we are still wrapping our arms around it, the Senate passed the pension bill this week. The ethics bill is off to a good start in the House. Workforce development and housing efforts are making progress in both the House and the Senate. All in all, it was a pretty good week.Read more
Members of the House Government Operations Committee,
Through Campaign for Vermont, I have been working with the Administration and Legislature since 2015 to encourage the passage and strengthening of ethics laws in Vermont. Today I am writing because you are beginning to take testimony on S.171. I know this bill may be confusing in how it interrelates with existing rules, policies, and practices across different branches of government. It is not always easy to step back and see the broader picture of how these all tie together.Read more
Legislators found out this week that the Vermont child tax credit bill may need a haircut. The workforce development bill received such a large haircut that we may have a headless horseman situation.
In case we scared you, the economic development bill passed out of committee this week and is headed to the Senate floor (mostly intact). Some provisions in the bill received push-back around what business would have access to funds and whether or not revenue replacement is the role of government (that question as largely been decided by ARPA). The workforce bill was passed by the House this week as the House and Senate exchange their flagship bills.
Also, the ethics bill received a warm welcome in the House and we are looking forward to testifying on that legislation next week.Read more
The legislature was busy this week moving bills onto the floor in both chambers to meet the looming cross-over deadline (all bills must pass from one chamber to the other before crossover in order to be acted upon this year). Many last-minute requests were denied and a number of bills saw floor action. This includes the ethics bill we have been working on, which was passed by the Senate this week.
Other bills we have been following, including the workforce development, housing, and economic development are all slated for the floor of the House and Senate early next week.Read more
There was progress on several fronts this week with the ethics bill moving to the Senate Floor and the workforce development bill appears to be ready to move by Wednesday.
A bill that steers the state towards divestment of fossil fuels from our public pension systems is also headed to the Senate Floor. This bill is concerning for several reasons, read more below!Read more