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PO Box 490, St. Albans Bay, VT  05481

Phone: 802.876.6200



Closing out Week 16 of the 2023 Legislative Session

04/27/2023 5:38 PM | Denis Bourbeau

Clean Heat Standard - S.5, the Clean Heat Standard bill was approved by the House this past week. The bill sets up a marketplace for credits that would provide a system of carrots and sticks towards incentivizing greenhouse gas reducing activities in the thermal sector. Each fossil fuel dealer would be assigned a certain amount of credits they must seek through clean heat activities such as weatherizing homes and installing cold climate heat pumps. Dealers that do not meet the requirements would be penalized and the price of heating fuel would rise accordingly.

The Public Utility Commission will be responsible for designing the system of credits and demerits. The 2025 legislature will then act on the draft rule, containing all the design details of the program, by passing another bill that approves the design. The program would then go into place by June 2025.

Governor Scott vetoed a similar bill last year and the legislature failed to override the veto by a single vote. If a veto comes again, the legislature, with its Democratic super-majority, would likely have the votes for an override.

The Budget - The Senate Appropriations Committee also unanimously voted out their $8.5 billion budget on Friday. The bill, which will be on the Senate floor this week, leaves untouched many of the House’s proposals, but makes some changes including ending the motel voucher housing program, increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates to some service providers, removing the funding for universal school meals to be considered separately in H.165, providing an initial appropriation for after school grants, and allocating over $9 million to a youth inpatient psychiatric facility.

Housing Bill - The housing bill, S.100, saw a new party enter the fray last week – The Rural Caucus. In a letter to the Speaker of the House, Jill Krowinski, over 30 tri-partisan members of the House of Representatives supported regulatory changes, including expanded exemptions for Act 250, to address the housing crisis. As the bill currently stands in the House Committee on Environment and Energy, it focuses on the very small footprints of the states developed designated areas and does little to help rural areas. 

Two weeks ago, Democratic leadership sided with special interests in deciding that housing development regulation would not be discussed in the Housing Committee, leaving that task instead to the Environment and Energy Committee, a committee not known for being friendly to development. For now, the Rural Caucus is siding with campaign promises to constituents in addressing the states housing crisis and not with the diluted bill favored by leadership.

Childcare - S.56, the childcare bill, passed out of the House Committee on Human Services and will now need to make stops at multiple other committees before it can be passed by the House. Chief among those committees is House Ways and Means, which has rolled out their proposed funding package that includes an income tax increase (in lieu of payroll) and a corporate tax. 

The Senate had funded the bill with a 0.42% payroll tax, a reallocation of the funding for the Vermont child tax credit, and the roughly $50 million base funding the Governor found. The House, in response to testimony that funding should be  "broad-based" where businesses and individuals each pay their fair share, has instead proposed:

  • An increase to the top tier of corporate tax from 9.25% to 10%, raising $19 million, and 
  • An increase personal income tax by an additional 0.5% across all brackets, raising $114 million.
  • The package also increases the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 38% to 59%, which would more than offset the effects of the tax increase on lower-income filers.

House leadership, by all evidence, is adamant that both childcare and paid family and medical leave (which has its own price tag of $120 million per year) are enacted this year, while the Senate is looking to only act on childcare.  If the bill passes out of the House, it would then be sent back to the Senate, where that chamber could start to address the major divide between the two chambers. 

What to expect in Week 17 – April 24 – April 28, 2023

Note: Legislative Committee Agendas are updated frequently throughout each day. The latest committee schedule can be found on this link. A list of weekly hearings for all committees can be found here.

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