Just days after criticizing the state legislature for its overzealous spending, Gov. Phil Scott again used his weekly press conference to criticize political opponents at the Statehouse who successfully overrode all of his vetoes.
“A lot has happened over the last week, including the supermajority overriding most of my vetoes, costing Vermonters hundreds of millions in new fees, taxes and unsustainable spending in the coming years,” the governor said.
These increases include $20 million in new DMV fees and a 13% increase in annual spending, according to the governor.
State tax revenues are falling
One question put to the governor concerned falling tax revenues. Scott said when economic times are going well, it’s easy to forget that things can change quickly.
“[The state’s economists] have warned that they were concerned about revenue projections, and things were going so well here in the state of Vermont that many people think it’s never going to end. Well I’ve been through a couple of these and they do end, they end quickly,” he said.
The governor added he is not thrilled with the current level of engagement — or lack thereof — when it comes to negotiating with lawmakers from the legislature.
“For the first and only time in the session, legislators were willing to negotiate with us,” Scott said. “They gave us tools to ease this transition.”
He added, “In summary, instead of transitioning back to the pre-pandemic program in its entirety on July 1, which is what the legislature had passed unanimously in the Budget Adjustment Act in March, they may be able to stay eligible [for public assistance] until we find an option for them.”
On his housing policy and homelessness, he said “it gives us investments” that will lead to permanent housing options for the people leaving this program. He suggested that this plan will draw on existing resources rather than get funding from new expenditures.
Act 250 still needs work
The governor was asked how far reforms to housing policy can make real progress when attempts to reform Act 250, the state’s land use law, have languished.
“That’s an ongoing conversation that we need to have with the legislature. The modernization of Act 250 is something that we’ve been working on. I think we’ve had a bill almost every single session that has not survived in its entirety, if at all,” Scott said. “It’s vitally important that we revive this provision that was put into place over 50 years ago.”
Not ready to expand the recycling program
The governor expressed concern about proposals to expand the state’s bottle recycling program. It’s one of the bills that he vetoed. Scott explained that he is a longtime advocate for the program, yet argued the logistics and costs of expanding the program would hurt Vermonters at this time.
“I’m concerned this bill will result in higher costs for Vermonters due to deposit fees added to a wide range of beverage products; increased handling fees will be passed onto consumers to fund the redemption system; and increased recycling costs for towns, businesses, and residents as high-value cans and bottles are removed,” he wrote in a statement Thursday.
He added that the existing recycling program in the state should be sufficient for now.
The full press conference can be viewed online here.