TURN THE HEAT UP
This week the Vermont House passed H.145, the FY2023 Budget Adjustment Act (BAA). While the House decided to fund the bulk of Governor Phil Scott’s proposals in BAA, there were significant differences in the funding levels for certain initiatives. The House added more than $80 million in funding to the governor’s proposal, mostly toward housing.
Democrats on the House Appropriations committee and on the House floor argued that lower income and unhoused Vermonters urgently need housing assistance as the justification to appropriate tens of millions of dollars in additional funding. Some legislators punctuated their floor speeches by referencing the sub-zero temperatures outside the statehouse as arctic air blasted the state at the end of the week. Republican members criticized the additional spending, saying it was not appropriate to increase funding for pandemic-era emergency programs slated to shut down in the coming months. Others criticized the spending in BAA, saying that it will require cutting important initiatives from the governor’s proposed FY2024 budget.
The budget adjustment debate showed the first major clash between the supermajority-holding Democrats in the House, their GOP counterparts and Governor Scott. The House Appropriations committee approved the BAA on party lines (8-4) and the roll call vote on the House floor on the bill was also partisan (107-33).
The Democrats controlling the legislature and Republican Governor Scott have enjoyed a relatively agreeable working relationship for the last three years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and all the emergency measures that were adopted in response. However, prior to the pandemic the legislature was often at odds with Governor Scott, usually on spending levels and priorities, the result being a number of vetoes, failed override attempts, and two successful overrides.
It looks like the 2023 session may be more reminiscent of the pre-pandemic era when it comes to sparring between the governor and legislature.