By Guy Page
Gov. Phil Scott has vetoed 10 bills sent to him by the Legislature this year. Every veto, as well as excerpts from the governor’s explanations of his decisions, appears below.
H.196, Paid family leave. Gov. Scott explains: “I have repeatedly voiced that I would be – and still am – open to working to create a State-run, voluntary system which provides this type of benefit for individuals who choose to invest a portion of each pay check, while allowing others to opt-out. Unfortunately, the Legislature decided to pursue a program that increases taxes taken out of the paychecks of all Vermonters.”
H.911, Changes in personal income tax and education financing, and H.924, the 2019 state budget. Gov. Scott explains: “My primary objection to [these two] bills…..is that together they result in an unnecessary and avoidable $33 million increase in statewide property tax rates.
“We have, in this fiscal year, approximately $160 million more in revenue than last year. This additional revenue breaks down as follows:
– $82 million more from organic economic growth and federal tax reform;
– $34 million in unanticipated funds from the Attorney General’s tobacco settlement;
– $44 million in surplus revenue recently added to the budget.
“Having collected far more revenue from Vermonters than expected, as well as additional revenue from other sources, we do not need to raise statewide property tax rates on Vermonters to fully fund school budgets…. I cannot support legislation which adds or increases taxes on Vermonters.”
S.40, Increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2024. Gov. Scott explains: “I believe the bill is more likely to harm those it intends to help, weaken small businesses and the economy as a whole, and deepen the economic inequality that exists between Chittenden County and other counties in the state.”
S.105, Consumer justice enforcement. Gov. Scott explains: “Vermont’s outdoor recreation economy and non-profit organizations, like the YMCA, Run Vermont, and the Vermont Special Olympics who offer recreational services to the community, have voiced opposition to provisions in this bill, noting it will greatly inhibit the use of standard waivers, which are central to daily operations.”
S.197, Liability for toxic substance exposures or releases. Gov. Scott explains: “I recognize the intent of this bill is to help ensure those exposed to harmful chemicals, like PFOA, can access financial resources for medical monitoring to increase early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases that may occur because of such exposure. However, it is important to note that there is nothing that currently keeps an individual from seeking judicial recourse to gain medical monitoring from an entity. The level of liability this legislation creates for Vermont businesses is unprecedented and counter to my Administration’s goal to make Vermont more affordable.”
S.222, Miscellaneous judiciary procedures, vetoed 5/30. Gov. Scott explains: “This bill purports to make several technical amendments related to civil and criminal procedure statutes. However, it makes substantive changes to the laws regarding video conferencing of arraignments and other appearances before a Court officer, and modifies regulations for marijuana dispensaries, and sealing and expungement of records.
“Of primary concern are the changes to video conferencing of arraignments and other appearances before a Court officer. I understand the Judiciary was quite clear with both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees regarding its desire to proceed with this tool to facilitate Court administration. I am concerned the Legislature has disregarded the obvious separation of powers issue. One of the necessary aspects of court administration is the discretionary aspect of allocating judicial resources and this bill removes this tool from the purview of the Judiciary.”
S.273, Miscellaneous law enforcement amendments. Gov. Scott explains: “This bill restructures the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council and could affect the operation of the Vermont Police Academy in a way which substantially weakens the Council and unnecessarily politicizes this essential link between improving the quality of law enforcement and protecting Vermonters. Specifically, this bill removes the authority of the Governor to appoint five members to the Council to provide broad representation of the law enforcement community and the public. I, as well as prior Governors, have recognized the importance of the representation of Sheriffs, State’s Attorneys and Police Chiefs on the Council. Unfortunately, this bill eliminates representation of the elected State’s Attorneys on the Council.”
S.281, Mitigation of systemic racism. Gov. Scott explains: “I support without reservation the goal of this bill to ensure State governance is conducted in an unbiased, open, inclusive and welcoming manner…..to ensure the intent of the legislation is fulfilled without delay, I have signed Executive Order 04-18. This Executive Order is modeled after S.281 but goes further in our effort to ensure racial, ethnic and cultural diversity, equity and equality – and avoids the unconstitutional provisions included in the bill.
“Specifically, the order establishes the position of Chief Racial Equity and Diversity Officer, to be nominated and vetted by a five-member panel selected in consultation with the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Chair of the Human Rights Commission. The Chief Racial Equity and Diversity Officer will be housed in the Office of the Secretary of Administration. The duties and responsibilities of the Chief Racial Equity and Diversity Officer include those reflected in S.281.”
S.103, Regulation of toxic substances and hazardous materials. Gov Scott explains: “It is duplicative to existing measures that already achieve its desired protections. In my view S.103 will jeopardize jobs and make Vermont less competitive for businesses.
None of these vetoes have been overridden, an act that requires a two-thirds majority of the Legislature. Ten vetoes in a single year is an extraordinarily high number. Only two governors have ever had more for their entire careers, Howard Dean (21 over 12 years) and James Douglas (18 over eight years).
The Legislature is currently in special session trying to set a 2019 budget. Gov. Scott wants to use the windfall discussed above to keep from raising taxes, while legislative leadership would raise taxes and apply the windfall to reduce the teachers’ pension fund shortfall. Both sides hope to avert a state government shutdown which could occur without a budget agreement by July 1.
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.