Legislative Update- April 26, 2021
Sunday, April 25, 2021
by: Matt Musgrave

Section: Legislative Update

The Senate Committee on Finance took up testimony regarding taxation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) grants. H.315 which became law included language that exempted 2020 PPP grants from taxation but left out the 2021. Although the legislature had intended to consider this at a later date business groups and the press noticed this and reported the possibility those grants would be taxed. The committee had many witnesses in to oppose taxation but not before being rebuffed by multiple committee members suggesting the calls and emails they were getting in objection were misplaced as they had not decided. Several witnesses spoke and were met with resistance from Senators. One exchange was so intense the chair had to subdue a Senator. AGC/VT testified that although we realize they would likely make the right decision to not tax the 2021 PPP loans that it was critical for employers to know one way or another. The PPP program kept thousands of Vermonters off unemployment and saved the system from bankruptcy. AGC/VT testified that if employers do not know whether they will be taxed, they may not take advantage of such programs if they are ever needed again which would throw people into unemployment.

Thursday April 22nd AGC/VT testified in the House Committee on Commerce on bill S.10 which would extend certain unemployment provisions. AGC/VT testified that the only initiative missing from the bill is a provision striking 2020 from the calculation for the unemployment trust fund targets and without it the association opposes the bill. Without striking 2020 the fund target would skyrocket from $500 million which was more than sufficient to weather COVID_19 to $1 Billion. AGC/VT also suggested striking a benefit increase that would give $50/week to parents on unemployment in exchange for an across the board tax credit to assist all parents working or not during COVID-19. The bill is expected to pass with the 2020 fix.

Friday the association testified in opposition to S.136 which would require OSHA 10 certifications for all workers on state projects or face high fines. A labor group testified first pointing out national statistics that do not relate to Vermont, made reference to two flagger deaths and took the opportunity to take a jab at employers who "don't value the safety of their people". This struck a cord with AGC/VT Government Affairs Director Matt Musgrave. Matts testimony specifically called into question the validity of the out of state studies cited and that both flagger deaths the other witness mentioned were due to an intoxicated driver in one scenario and a distracted driver in the other which neither had to do with the flaggers safety training. Matt also went on offering testimony showing a clear understanding of OSHA trainings, the CFR rules related to competent person training and that it was clear that the labor advocate had no idea the level of care and training AGC/VT members offer their staff. "Since I've been with this organization I find it remarkable how much employers care about their people and I find it extremely hard to sit here and listen to someone saying otherwise publicly", Matt said with great pride in the Association. The committee took note and the bill will likely not be taken up this bienium.