Leonine: Budget adjustment bill will test the powers that be

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Leonine Public Affairs It was a whirlwind week in the Vermont legislature as committees worked diligently to vote bills out before Friday's crossover deadline.

Meanwhile, the budget adjustment bill was delivered to Governor Phil Scott on Tuesday. He has until Monday to act on the bill and there is much anticipation about whether he will sign or veto. He has raised concerns that the legislature included $50 million more than he had originally proposed. If he vetoes the bill, it will be the first test of the Democratic supermajority in the Legislature, and would set the tone for other disagreements between the two branches of government over spending and policy proposals currently being developed in the State House.

The House Ways and Means Committee approved H.66, which would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for workers at 90 percent of their salary to care for a newborn, address a medical condition or escape domestic abuse. It would also offer two weeks of bereavement pay. The program would cost $112 million to start, $117 million annually, and would be paid for with payroll tax split between the employer and the employee.

S.56, the childcare bill, was voted out of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. As currently constructed, the program would fully cover the cost of childcare for those making up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level. S.56 also includes funding for the Department of Children and Families to retain childcare workers. Earlier in the week, Senator Jane Kitchel proposed an amendment to S.56 that would provide 12 weeks of parental leave for one parent at a cost of $15 million.

On Thursday the House Ways and Means Committee approved their amendment to S.165, which creates ongoing funding for universal free school meals to all public school students. The bill pays for the cost of this program through the Education Fund. The Joint Fiscal Office expects the bill would cost between $26 and $33 million per year.

The House Commerce & Economic Development Committee approved a draft workforce and economic development bill late Friday. The bill contains just under $40 million in appropriations for various economic and workforce development initiatives including for teachers, nurses, mental health workers, among many others. The Governor has proposed $20 million for workforce initiatives. The committee was given the greenlight by leadership to spend $40 million on these initiatives. The bill now moves the House Appropriations Committee for their review.

Source: Leonine Public Affairs, Montpelier, Legislative Report Week 10. March 17, 2023. leoninepublicaffairs.com.

Through a special arrangement with Leonine, Vermont Business Magazine republishes Leonine's legislative report on vermontbiz.com.