Scott tells the Senate what he thinks of the House budget | News

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Gov. Phil Scott told the state Senate what he would like to see changed in the House budget version before he gets to his desk.

While the list isn’t exhaustive, said Secretary of Administration Kristin Clouser, it highlights Scott’s priorities: housing, economic development, tax relief, state employee pension reform, cash flow and drug addiction prevention.

The administration’s problems with the House’s version of the budget were outlined in a letter sent last week to Senator Jane Kitchel, D-Caledonia, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The budget, otherwise known as H.740, “Government Support Appropriation Act,” now resides in this committee.

Clouser said the administration understands there will always be differences of opinion when it comes to any budget, but this letter makes it clear what Scott’s priorities are and gives lawmakers some leeway.

According to the letter, the House budget took $20 million of the $70 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds the governor had asked to be earmarked for housing.

“Half of this cut – $10 million – was directed to the Vermont Housing Finance Agency to establish a missing middle-income home ownership development to support the development of new homes for working-class families to purchase. “, we read in the letter. “The data is clear: homes in this price range are virtually non-existent in Vermont.”

The other half of what was removed would have gone to Vermont’s Housing Investment Program, which was designed to repair rundown and vacant rental housing, and for city grants supporting affordable and low-cost rental housing projects. mixed income.

“The House has said the policy language behind these initiatives is moving into other bills, but the House budget does not fund these investments,” the administration writes. “The best outcome would be to put language and funding in the budget, but at a minimum, the Administration is asking the Senate to restore funding to these important initiatives.”

Clouser said the House bill contained things that Scott wanted to see happen, but there was no commitment to fund them in the budget. That makes it difficult to see the budget as a whole in terms of what it will do and how things will move forward, Clouser said.

“Similarly, the Governor and Legislature agreed to some buckets last year in terms of how we would use our ARPA funding as a state, and one of those buckets is development. economic,” Clouser said. “The House removed $100 million of economic development funds proposed by the Governor from the House budget. And again, no room for those.

She said many of the economic development proposals dovetailed with some tax relief items the Republican governor wanted approved.

“We are pleased that the Legislative Assembly is talking about tax relief this year, but we are disappointed that the Governor’s tax package has not been the subject of more discussion and debate in the Legislative Assembly” , she said.

The administration says it thinks its tax relief proposals are broader than what the House approved, but also targets specific areas such as child care and health care workers.

“The proposal that the House is funding affects approximately 13% of resident taxpayers and the Governor’s proposal is much broader; I think that’s about 25% of Vermont residents, so we urge the Senate to take some of these proposals and start talking about them and debating the benefits of each,” Clouser said.

The letter to Kitchel says the administration supports the pension reforms found in S.286 — “An Act respecting the modification of various public pensions and other post-employment benefits” — but wants to add language allowing all new government employees, regardless of their classified or exempt status, to choose between a defined contribution or defined benefit plan, and to have the option of including risk-sharing provisions.

“Over the past two years, the Governor has consistently called for responsible structural changes to accompany any additional investment in the retirement system,” reads the letter to Kitchel. “These changes are necessary to avoid the waste of taxpayers’ money resulting from an unsustainable structural model. To be comfortable allocating funding in the budget, S.286 policy must reflect a sustainable way forward.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider the bill Tuesday at 1 p.m.

Kitchel said she expects work on the House bill to easily enter the following week.

“We’re going to take a fresh look and there may be things we want to change,” she said Monday. “I think we know that we have in some areas, between all of the bills, more proposed spending than we have funds, so we have work ahead of us, particularly in the area of ​​hand development. -work and economic development.”

Regarding addiction and prevention, Kitchel said his committee will have to look at what has been proposed. She said there are funds for a statewide prevention coordinator and a provision that takes a percentage of taxes from cannabis sales and dedicates it to prevention.

keith.whitcomb @rutlandherald.com

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