For the rest of the country, last Friday was St. Patrick’s Day, the day when everyone is Irish. For the legislature it was crossover, the deadline for bills that will “cross over” to the other chamber to have a chance of passing this year. The money bills (the budget, revenue, capital, and transportation bills) have a slightly later deadline.
A wide variety of bills did emerge from committee addressing everything from adequate shelter
for dogs and cats, appointing Town Clerks, siting cell towers, and domestic violence. None of
these are law yet as they all await further action.
The big battle brewing in Montpelier is over the budget. Early in the session the governor sent
an unworkable budget plan to the legislature which shifted $112 million in spending to the
Education Fund (funded by property taxes) yet provided only $62 million in General Fund
revenue to cover it. The legislature rejected it as raising property taxes.
Now the administration has specifically instructed its agency heads NOT to work with the
legislature as it works to finalize a balanced budget. This looks to me like setting the stage for a
round of finger pointing and blame. I don’t believe that this is what Vermonters want.
If we can’t work together on a sensible spending plan now, what will happen when the Trump
spending cuts hit home; when we lose $200 million in health care funds and many millions more
in agriculture, environmental, and assorted grant funding?
The House is working hard to send the governor a budget with no new fees or taxes, in order to
respect the campaign pledge that he was elected on. I think some co-operation is in order.