One of the most challenging legislative sessions Vermont has ever had came to a close Thursday night. The members of the House and the Senate passed the 2023 budget deal that a small group of them reached on Monday.

The state Senate unanimously approved the budget. About 30 minutes later, the House approved the legislation, 133-3, and sent it to Gov. Phil Scott’s desk to sign.

Vermont lawmakers entered this year with hundreds of millions of federal pandemic relief dollars still in hand. The governor complimented them following passage for how they put those dollars to work.

“With an $8 billion budget, we’ve made investments that will move us further towards a Vermont that can keep and create good jobs, build affordable homes and support communities across the state,” Scott said.

The investments include more than $110 million for economic development and nearly $100 million for broadband internet service. House Speaker Jill Krowinski told members of her chamber that they should be proud of what they’ve done throughout the session for people who’ve historically been marginalized.

“(Your votes include) housing access for BIPOC Vermonters, the creation of the Health Equity Commission, extending Everyone Eats and universal meals, (and) creating programs and funding for those who lost their jobs or needed help to pay bills,” Rep. Krowinski said.

As the 2021-’22 session began, the Vermont State Colleges system was in financial peril. The new budget includes a ten million dollar boost to VSC’s annual appropriation and nearly $15 million more in one-time funding.

State Senate Minority Leader Randy Brock pointed out to his colleagues that this session may have been unparalleled in Vermont’s history. He also assigned it a unique name.

“I want to thank each and every one of you particularly for this most recent biennium, which we might call the COVID biennium,” Sen. Brock said. “And even though we may disagree in a lot of areas, we’ve certainly learned to do so without being disagreeable.”

Lawmakers had some high-profile disagreements with the governor over areas like pension reform — which saw an override of a Scott veto — as well as clean heat standards and a statewide rental registry, both of which saw veto override efforts narrowly fail. However, Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint said the legislature and the governor have many more common threads than disagreements.

“(We’ve tackled) $190 million in climate investments; the racial and social justice work that we’ve done — there’s still so much more to do,” Sen. Balint said. “All of these things are difficult conversations that we’ve had that are long overdue.”

This November, Vermont voters will decide the fate of Proposition 5, which also passed this session. It’s been widely dubbed ‘the Reproductive Liberty Amendment’, and it would codify abortion rights in the state constitution.