Closing out Week 3 of the 2023 Legislative Session
The theme of Week 3 was “money.” The Emergency Board shared the state’s Revenue Forecast Update with legislators. Due to the influx of unpreceded federal economic stimulus funds Vermont’s coffers are in good shape but we need to prepare for a sharp downturn in the coming years once these funds are expended. The Board approved estimates from state economists showing a 9% decline from FY23 to FY24 – the largest decline in 25 years.
Governor Scott delivered his Budget Address on Friday and reiterated the necessity of limiting budget growth by using surplus funds for one-time needs rather than creating programs that will need continued support. He did propose using over $200 million of one-time funds on housing, workforce training and healthcare.
The eagerly anticipated RAND Child Care Report was released this week, the child care financing study ordered by last session’s legislature. The report concluded that it would cost between $179-$279 million to meet the goal of no family paying more than 10% of their income on childcare. The report estimated 600-2800 workers would enter the workforce if Vermont established a high-quality early childcare system. Proposals on how to pay for this ongoing cost run the gamut of new taxes, including: a .09% payroll tax, a 2% increase in sales tax, service taxes, a rooms and meals tax increase and a sugar-sweetened beverage tax. There will be a lot of testimony in the coming weeks as this initiative takes shape.
Housing discussions were underway in the Senate Commerce Committee as legislators look for ways to break the logjam of local zoning ordinances that discourage residential development in areas already served by water/sewer infrastructure. The House and Senate have introduced similar bills aimed at encouraging infill development.
House Ways & Means will hold their third Tax Workshop – Consumption Taxes on the agenda at noon on Friday and streamed on their YouTube channel here.
What to expect in Week 4
January 23-27, 2023
Note: The Legislative Committee Agendas are updated frequently throughout each day. The latest committee schedule can be found via the links below.
House Committee Work
Agriculture, Food Resiliency, & Forestry – The state funded universal school meals for this year but will have to find additional funding to continue the program. Work on this will continue this week. The committee will also hear testimony on the organic dairy farm crisis.
Appropriations – will start the week with a quick review of the governor’s proposed budget from the Department of Finance and management, with Budget Adjustment Act hearings continue the rest of the week. House committees of jurisdictions have been asked to submit their BAA recommendations to the Appropriations committee by January 25.
Commerce and Economic Development – Budget Adjustment testimony for the committee’s relevant areas of jurisdiction and Thursday and Friday the committee will take testimony on proposed changes to Vermont Employment Growth Incentive Program (VEGI) that are in H.10.
Corrections and Institutions – will take Budget Adjustment testimony and review the Governor’s recommended FY24-FY25 Capital Budget Proposal.
Education – A variety of issues this week in Education. The committee will receive an updated school construction report, learn more about Education Quality Standards, discuss inclusive school environments, review last year’s S.219 and review the Auditor’s report on Independent Schools.
Environment and Energy – will review relevant sections of the Budget Adjustment Act and take a deep dive into H.67, a bill that considers household products containing hazardous substances. They will also receive an introductory overview from ISO-NE on Thursday.
General and Housing – will be holding general topic hearings related to housing this week along with receiving an introduction to H.66, an act relating to Paid Family Leave.
Government Operations and Military Affairs – will continue with general introductions and overviews and get a review of the Sports Betting Study Committee report.
Health Care – will continue with relevant overviews including insurance regulation, MVP Healthcare, Bi-State Primary Care Association, UVM Health Network and the Department of Health’s update on suicide prevention and the health care workforce.
Human Services – will be reviewing the Budget Adjustment Act and the proposed FY24 Budget. Missing from the week’s schedule is further discussions regarding the RAND Child Care Report or next steps.
Judiciary – will be considering H.45, an act relating to abusive litigation filed against survivors of domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault. They will also continue work on H.41, an act relating to referral of domestic and sexual violence cases to community justice centers. There is also a new bill under discussion, an act relating to civil and criminal procedures concerning legally protected healthcare activity, commonly referred to as a shield law proposal
Transportation – will work with the Agency of Transportation reviewing their budget.
Ways & Means – will be hearing about the Universal School Meals program, with its associated ongoing costs, and considering the cloud tax exemption, reviewing fees, hearing about the Home Health Provider tax and hearing about pass through entity income taxes.
Senate Committee Work
Agriculture – will continue with overviews and join the House Agriculture committee for a joint hearing on the organic dairy farm crisis. They will also consider a new proposal relating to protection from nuisance suits for agriculture activities.
Appropriations – TBD
Economic Development – TBD
Education – will consider proposed improvements to school safety receive additional updates on the status of school facilities.
Finance – Consumption taxes, health insurance costs, and income-based education will take up much of the week.
Government Operations – will consider S.17, an act relating to sheriff reforms and get an update on a regional dispatch working group report.
Health and Welfare – Continued general overview introductions from the administration relevant interest groups.
Institutions – will be getting reports on the Capital Budget and the Agency of Natural Resources budget.
Judiciary – Continued testimony related to S.6, an act relating to custodial interrogation of juveniles and S.14, an act relating to Justice Reinvestment reporting requirements. Thursday the committee will take up S.3, an act relating to prohibiting paramilitary training camps on the schedule.
Natural Resources – Continued work on S.5, an act relating to affordably meeting the mandated greenhouse gas reductions for the thermal sector through electrification, decarbonization, efficiency and weatherization measures. This is the Clean Heat Standard bill that was vetoed last year back with a much longer name.
Transportation – Budget review with the various divisions under the Agency of Transportation.