With Spring comes the beginning of opening doors and windows to let the fresh air in. It also signals the beginning of a showdown between our pseudo–Republican Governor and the super majority Democrats that appear to be running the roost this session and are standing their ground with their self-imposed legislative priorities. The tit-for-tat bubbled up this week as Governor Scott dispensed his distaste for the budget bill that came out of the lower chamber Appropriations Committee and landed on the House floor to begin the much-anticipated ruckus style debate. Here’s a little snippet of the Governor’s response to the budget as he was displeased with how they cut or removed almost every single initiative he brought forward at the beginning of the session.
H.494 An act relating to making appropriations for the support of government (Big Bill);
General Fund (GF) totaling $2.4B. All funds (unduplicated) total $8.5B. Compared to the FY23 budget as adjusted, this reflects a GF increase of $303M. The bill also sets aside $
ONE-TIME GENERAL FUND EXPENDITURES; $227M
- Incorporates the Workforce and Economic Development Opportunities bill (H.484).
- Includes appropriations totaling $39.9M from the Capital Infrastructure Reserve Fund (formerly Capital Expenditure Cash Fund), as recommended by the House Committee on Corrections and Institutions. The appropriations are funded through a $32M GF transfer and a $7.3M prior-year balance in the fund.
- Adds $18.9M for Adverse weather and hybrid emergency housing program.
- Adds $50M to VHCB for affordable housing development.
- Funds the Vermont Housing Improvement Program (VHIP) with $10M.
- Provides $500K to ACCD for Municipal Bylaw Modernization Grants.
- Encourages the Treasurer’s Office to utilize the “10% in Vermont” (Local Investment Advisory Committee program) to fund the Missing Middle Program.
- Adds $2.5M for Housing Opportunity (HOP) grants at DCF.
- Provides $1M for refugee resettlement assistance and needs assessment.
- Funds the first year of a two-year pilot for Blueprint Hub and Spoke expansion.
- Provides $10M GF to AHS to address COVID emergent & exigent circumstances affecting health care providers.
- Appropriates $10.5M GF to AHS for match related to Medicaid redeterminations.
- Provides $1.59M GF to VDH for the Substance Misuse Prevention Coalition.
- Provides $2M GF to DCF for a two-year Reach Ahead pilot.
- Adds $1M to DCF for a grant to the Vermont Foodbank to address food insecurity.
- Adds $985K to DMH for House for the purchase and renovation of a facility.
- Funds $1M one-time to VDH for Recovery Housing.
- Adds $500K one-time to DCF for a grant to Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.
OTHER COMMUNITY INVESTMENTS NEEDS:
- Adds $8M to ACCD – Department of Economic Developments for Brownfields Redevelopment.
- Provides $1M TF to AOT for a grant to Green Mountain Transit to operate routes on a zero-fare basis and prepare for the transition to tiered-fare service.
- Adds $1M to the Public Service Department for the Vermont Access Network.
OTHER STATE INVESTMENTS:
- Adds $3M GF for ANR – Clean Heat Homes initiative.
- Reallocates $5M ARPA SFR funds to ANR for the Healthy Homes Initiative.
- Adds $900K to ANR for Climate Office technical analysis, tools, and training.
- Appropriates $7.5M to ADS for network and system modernization. Also reserves $4.68M for the Judiciary’s Network and Security Modernization project.
- Funds VSC – CCV 50% Tuition Reduction for workforce priorities at $4M.
- Provides $9M in bridge funding for VSC including $5.18M ARPA SFR and $3.82M GF.
H.479 An act relating to the Transportation Program and miscellaneous changes to laws related to transportation;
Spreadsheet of spending can be found here.
The FY24 Transportation Bill applies the policy and funding for the State of Vermont’s annual Transportation Program. Over $880 million will fund the FY24 T-bill and utilize more than $6 million in one-time funds.
The House Way & Means Committee reviewed the bill and increased fees through Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles to the tune of more than $22 million. Inspections, registrations, and permits will increase which will create sticker shock for Vermonters.
Fee Increases can be found here.
The bill is in line with the Governor’s recommended budget, except for dedicating an additional $1M on a one-time basis for Green Mountain Transit.
The Senate Transportation Committee will finalize their bill and negotiate the final bill with the House in May.
S.100 An act relating to housing opportunities made for everyone;
The bill makes changes to land use regulations, municipal zoning law, and Act 250. It also appropriates funds towards housing programs aimed at developing and rehabilitating housing available for rent and ownership. The bill also appropriates funds to prevent eviction for renters and reduce homelessness.
The Legislative Joint Fiscal Office estimates the bill would have a fiscal impact of $90.4M in FY24 because of General Fund appropriations for several housing programs made in the bill.
The bill also modified Act 250 (Land Use) by:
- Removing the cap on the number of priority housing projects that make a project exempt from Act 250.
- Removes the ‘5-year, 5-mile’ rule for housing projects in all designated areas.
- Amends the definition of priority housing projects to include projects located in designated village centers with permanent zoning and subdivision bylaws.
- Development and subdivisions in towns that receive enhanced designation are exempt from Act 250. Any designated area may become an enhanced designation area.
The bill would have increased the housing unit maximum to 25 housing units from 10 units. However, the Senate Natural Resources Committee believed that S.100 was going too far. As a result, they offered an amendment that would allow a municipality to apply for a Master Permit from Act 250 for a designated downtown or neighborhood development area which towns don’t believe will be effective.
The amendment also includes a provision that until July 1, 2026, the construction of housing projects with 25 or more units “constructed or maintained on a tract or tracts of land, located entirely within a designated downtown development district, a designated neighborhood development area, or a designated growth center, owned or controlled by a person within a radius of five miles of any point on any involved land and within any continuous period of five years” would be exempt from Act 250. Likewise, construction of a priority housing project “located entirely within a designated downtown development district or a designated growth center” would be exempt until July 1, 2026.
On Friday, Senator Thomas Chittenden (D) offered an amendment that would make a change to S.100 to do the following:
The construction of housing projects such as cooperatives, condominiums, or dwellings, or construction or maintenance of mobile homes or mobile home parks, with or more units, or with 25 or more units in a municipality with permanent zoning and subdivision bylaws, constructed or 10 maintained on a tract or tracts of land, owned or controlled by a person, within a radius of five miles of any point on any involved land and within any continuous period of five years.
The Chittenden amendment was replaced with a substitute amendment from Sen. Ram Hinsdale that would require a report and recommendations for changes to Act 250.
S.56 An act relating to child care and early childhood education;
The bill proposes to establish a committee to study prekindergarten education; expand eligibility for the Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP) to families with income up to 600% of the federal poverty level (FPL); increase rates the State pays early care and education providers; provide grants to providers to address readiness, quality and capacity; establish a new parental leave program; repeal the child tax credit; and institute a new payroll tax.
The VT General Assembly's Joint Fiscal Office estimates the bill would:
- Increase new expenditures by $39.2 million in FY 2024 and $114.6 million in FY25.
- Repeal the Vermont Child Tax Credit which was estimated to reduce State revenues by $31.8 million in FY24 and in future years.
- Raise approximately $83 million annually in new revenues by instituting a 0.42% tax on wages and self-employment income up to the Social Security taxable maximum.
The bill includes the following:
- Establishes a Child Care and Parental Leave Contribution in the form of a payroll tax levied on wages and self-employment net income up to the Social Security contribution and benefit base, commonly called the taxable maximum. The taxable maximum is $160,200 in calendar year 2023 and is indexed to average wages in the United States. Up to one-quarter of the payroll tax would be paid by employees, and at least three-quarters of the payroll tax would be paid by employers. Self-employed individuals would pay the entire tax up to the taxable maximum. Employers and self-employed individuals are responsible for any unpaid contributions. The contribution rate would be 0.42 percent starting July 1, 2024. JFO expects the payroll tax would raise $82.8 million in FY25.
- Would create the Child Care and Parental Leave Contribution Special Fund, to be administered by DCF and the Department of Taxes, for the purposes outlined in this bill. The payroll tax would be collected by the Department of Taxes and deposited into the special fund.
- Would establish the Parental Leave Benefit Program to cover the birth or adoption of a child within the preceding 12 months. The leave program would begin January 1, 2024, for births and adoptions on or after that date. Each family with annual gross family income no greater than 600% FPL with a birth or adoption may receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave if the recipient was working prior to the birth or adoption and plans to return to work after taking parental leave. One eligible parent may use all 12 weeks, or two eligible parents may share the 12 weeks. Leave may be continuous or intermittent and may be used for days when the eligible parent does not work. The leave benefit is up to $600 per week, not to exceed the eligible parent’s average weekly wage or self-employment income during the six months preceding the leave.
- Includes a Prekindergarten Education Study Committee to report to the General Assembly any recommendations on how to improve and expand accessible, affordable, and high-quality prekindergarten education.