Democratic lawmakers expressed optimism after Gov. Phil Scott outlined a budget proposal that included support for a new taxes on e-cigarettes.
Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson (D-Grand Isle, Chittenden) called the governor’s plan ‘a step in the right direction.’
“I think we are encouraged that there’s a really different tone than what we’ve seen in the past,” Johnson said. “There are initiatives that this legislature have passed a number of times.”
In his address, Scott acknowledged that a new tax is “not my first instinct.” But, he said, taxing e-cigarettes in the same way traditional tobacco products are taxed would help address what he called “a growing health risk for our kids.”
Vermont President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) said he was taken aback by the proposal.
“I think it’s a welcome suprise to many in the Senate, both from the point of view of having the right disincentives in place for preventing public health problems in the first place, but also, just a bit of a different tone than in the past,” Ashe said.
Rep. Catherine Toll (D-Caledonia, Washington), a member of the Joint Fiscal Committee, was less enthusiastic about Scott’s $6.1 billion budget plan.
“I didn’t hear anything that sets us up for the flat revenues that have been forecasted earlier this week,” Toll said. “It’s all well and good to spend it on good things, but we really need to be looking into the future and considering a multi-year process.”
Meanwhile, Progressives continued to pan Scott’s recently unveiled joint paid family leave partnership with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. Scott urged lawmakers to give the plan a fair shot during his address.
“To say a private healthcare company is going to do better than the government when we can see that what we currently have isn’t in line with affordability, isn’t accessible to most Vermonters, it’s astonishing to me,” said Rep. Diana Gonzalez (P- Chittenden).