Scott Blinks in Vermont Budget Battle, Will Allow Third Bill to Become Law | Off Message
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Monday, June 25, 2018

Scott Blinks in Vermont Budget Battle, Will Allow Third Bill to Become Law

Posted By on Mon, Jun 25, 2018 at 5:07 PM

click to enlarge Sen. Phil Baruth (D/P-Chittenden), left, speaking with Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Sen. Phil Baruth (D/P-Chittenden), left, speaking with Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden)
Updated on June 26, 2018.

Gov. Phil Scott announced late Monday night that he will allow the legislature's latest budget plan to become law, a decision that will prevent a July 1 government shutdown.

"I’m left with no choice but to allow [the budget] to become law without my signature," Scott said in a statement Monday evening.

The budget is largely the same as the one Scott vetoed June 14. The House passed the proposal Friday, then revoted on it Monday — and approved it again — after allegations of a procedural error. The votes came after a compromise deal that would have ended the impasse fell apart Friday.

The governor has insisted since he took office in 2017 that the state budget should not increase taxes or fees for Vermonters. Lawmakers this year passed three versions of the state budget which would not prevent an increase in the nonresidential property tax rate, which is is set annually under state law. Scott vetoed the first two but will not veto the latest proposal, H.16.

The deal that unraveled Friday would have split up onetime money between Scott’s priority — paying down the state’s nonresidential property tax rates — and lawmakers’ goal of paying for shortfalls in the state’s teacher retirement fund.

The budget passed on Monday doesn’t contain that split.

In his statement about the bill, Scott voiced frustration that Friday's deal fell apart and blamed Democratic lawmakers for the extended budget standoff.

“By abandoning two agreed-upon compromises and rejecting multiple proposals to fund government beyond July 1, legislative leaders have now pushed us to the brink of a shutdown, just to unnecessarily raise tax rates on nonresidential property tax payers, which includes renters, small business owners, camp owners and more," Scott said.

The first-term Republican governor said he wasn't willing to allow a government shutdown in an effort to hold the line on taxes.

"While I do not support raising any tax rates in a year we have a $55 million surplus, this debate has gone as far as it can responsibly go," Scott said.

While allowing the bill to become law without his signature doesn't change the dollars and cents of the state budget, it makes a symbolic point that Scott doesn't support the legislature's work.

Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) said Monday that he and other legislators had hoped for the opposite.

Scott signing the budget, Ashe said, would be "a signal to the world that, despite people being out of their comfort zone, [legislative leaders have] come together and accepted the agreement and moved on."

In a statement Tuesday morning, Ashe and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) praised Scott’s decision to back down and reiterated that the budget had support across the political spectrum.

“It’s a relief that the governor is finally willing to accept the significant compromise the legislature worked hard to put forward,” they said. “This bill is widely supported and reflects reasonable compromise by both parties.”

The lawmakers agreed with Scott’s stance that a government shutdown would have been an unacceptable outcome.

“Ensuring government remains functional is of the utmost importance,” Ashe and Johnson said.

Scott, who is running for reelection this year, vowed in his statement to continue to fight taxes in the future.

"Legislators can expect that I will seek to achieve additional tax relief for Vermonters next year, and beyond, because there is much more work to do to make Vermont more affordable and prosperous for families and businesses," the governor said in the statement.

Disclosure: Tim Ashe is the domestic partner of Seven Days publisher and coeditor Paula Routly. Find our conflict-of-interest policy here: sevendaysvt.com/disclosure.

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