Legislative Update- February 5, 2024
Sunday, February 4, 2024
by: Matt Musgrave

Section: Legislative Update

Before the budget adjustment act and the Governors budget address there was already stress and urgency among members in the state house. Even now we are hearing from members that the intensity is high because the challenges we face are real but now that the budgets have been set on the table negotiation will ensue to see which policies live and get left on the ground.

The top item on most peoples mind right now is an anticipated increase to the education property tax between 18-20+%. This challenge was unanticipated by legislators when they passed a bill that changed the funding apparatus to recognize students differently. It changed the "weighting formula" which drives funding on a per student basis. Originally it was done on simple population but recently was changed to recognize different expenses such as English as second language, disability or other underserved identities. This weighting benefits larger districts like Burlington or Winooski that have large populations that include more of those higher "weighted" individuals leaving the burden on other taxpayers across the state. This all happened at the same time as massive inflation struck our housing market which increased the common level of appraisal in most towns requiring re-assements that will add to the new tax burdens. This complicated issue is being deliberated by towns, school districts and the legislature to find a solution but no one is optimistic at this point.

On the same note of housing there seems to be a disconnect between what Vermonters are asking for and a few in certain environmental communities are working on. There are two very positive bills for housing being considered including H.716 and a still draft version of the "BeHome Act" being crafted in the Senate. The bills which are essentially are identical make huge strides towards Vermonts housing needs while addressing sprawl concerns. Another bill in the House Environment Committee seeks to disrupt the Natural Resource Board and create yet more criterion making housing even harder to accomplish. AGC/VT is advocating on behalf of Vermonters and seeks to curb the aggressive demands of the environmental community towards a humanitarian approach to housing that does not leave people living in tents while at the same time advocating for enviromental protections. The question remains: will our leaders realize that its time to shift towards housing humans.