senate-the-vermont-statehouse-insider

The VT Statehouse Insider – Week 2

FOUNDATION BUILDING

Lawmakers settled into their new committees this week and began the process of familiarizing themselves with the areas of government they oversee. Administration officials from agencies and departments across state government provided the legislative committees with overviews of the work they do and started to lay the groundwork for Governor Phil Scott’s priorities, which will be detailed in his budget address next week.

The question of committee jurisdiction continued to be a topic of discussion this week. House leadership had proposed the restructuring of a number of House committees, and there was some confusion and some concern from members, particularly of the minority parties, about whether jurisdiction was clear. The House Rules Committee proposed further clarity around committee jurisdiction on Thursday, and the 2023-2024 House committees were made official with the passage of HR 5.

The buzz inside the statehouse increased this week around two top priorities for Democratic lawmakers – paid family and medical leave and childcare reform. The ballpark cost and funding source for childcare reform have yet to be proposed, although a state payroll tax is the likely funding mechanism. There was increasing talk this week of a soon to be introduced paid family leave bill focused on a 0.58 percent new state payroll tax, as well as $20 million startup costs. Currently there are no state payroll taxes for these items, and discussion of implementing one will undoubtedly be a defining theme of the 2023 legislative session. Governor Scott has already indicated he will not support a payroll tax for either proposal, teeing up a marquee showdown between the highly popular governor and supermajority-wielding Democrats.

BUDGET ADJUSTMENT ACT

The House Appropriations committee dove into the governor’s proposed FY2023 budget adjustment act (BAA) this week. The proposal includes $339 million in additional appropriations to the FY2023 budget that passed last year. $100 million would be one-time spending as the state continues to utilize the vast influx of federal funding since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The proposed budget adjustment invests in everything from big ticket items like housing, broadband expansion and workforce development to seemingly niche items like LIDAR technology for geological mapping. The House Appropriations committee has an aggressive timeline to finish the BAA. They hope to have the bill on the House floor by early February.

FINANCIAL LITERACY

While most committees focused on general overviews and other introductory discussions, the House and Senate Education committees heard about a plan to increase access to financial literacy education in Vermont high schools. The proposal would ensure high school juniors and seniors throughout Vermont have the opportunity to learn how to manage their finances as they enter adulthood. The proposal would give local school districts the flexibility they need to craft a custom financial literacy course that meets the needs of their district and fits within the structure of their schedule and school operations.