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VBRA Lobbyist Report 03/28/23

03/30/2023 2:42 PM | Denis Bourbeau

Closing out Week 12 of the 2023 Legislative Session

Last week, the Senate Committee on Finance spent two afternoons working on S.56, the childcare bill, that was sent to them by the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare. After months of anticipation, the committee finally proposed a funding mechanism for the expansion of the Child Care Financial Assistance Program and a new parental leave program. The committee amended the bill by:

  • adding a 0.42% payroll tax,
  • repealing the current child care tax credit and repurposing $32 million to the childcare subsidy, and 
  • added $50 million from the Governor’s budget for early childcare.

The payroll tax would be split 75% on the employer and 25% on the employee, and would increase in the second year to an estimated 1%. FY24 cost estimates are $90 million for the program, growing to $190 million in FY25. The House is considering alternative taxes including a corporate tax and consumption taxes, leaving the bill’s funding sources still in flux.

The childcare bill also contains an amendment that establishes a new parental leave program, intended to be an alternative and compromise to the paid family and medical leave bill favored by the House. The program would offer 12 weeks of paid leave, up to $600 a week, for one parent. It would cost $2 million to implement and administer, and $5.6 million a year in benefits - far less expensive than the House bill. 

As mentioned above, the House passed its version of a paid family and medical leave bill, H.66, which has remained largely unchanged since it was first introduced with its 103 sponsors. The bill seeks to create the most generous paid family and medical leave program in the country, with an initial cost of $111.5 million to start - including 65 new employees - and ongoing annual costs of $94 million. A showdown is expected between this bill and the Senate's preferred parental leave program. 

The House Committee on Ways and Means took up H.10, a bill regarding the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive Program (VEGI). The bill extends a sunset on the program by two years, increases transparency in how grants are determined and awarded to businesses, and creates a study committee on what an effective business incentive program would look like. However, as the week went on, time constraints seemed to prevent the committee from getting to the bill, and it is likely to miss any extensions for crossover deadline.  

The Senate Economic Development and Natural Resources committees  spent the week going back and forth with amendments to the housing bill, S.100, also known as the HOME Act. By Thursday, they had arrived at a version that they felt was a suitable compromise to bring to the Senate floor.

However, advocates are frustrated with how Act 250 sections have been scaled back from the original bill to an almost inconsequential scale. The bill as introduced increased the jurisdictional trigger from 10 units to 25 for the entire state. The Senate Natural Resources Committee restricted that trigger to only in “designated areas,” which represent about 0.3% of the state.

There is an amendment that will be considered to meet halfway with an Act 250 exemption for towns that have permanent planning/zoning and subdivision bylaws.

A new Green Mountain State Poll, (a States of Opinion Project, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center) shows that Vermonters consider housing to be the state's most serious problem - by a wide margin. 

The news comes in a week in which there is contention around how best to create more housing while legislators discuss what could conservatively be estimated as more than $400 million in new taxes.

We need your help! Please reach out to your Senators and ask them to support housing in Vermont by moving the 10/5/5 trigger for Act 250 to 25/5/5 in more areas than the bill currently allows. You can find your Senators here.

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