Montpelier, VT – The Senate has nearly passed their proposed $8.5 billion budget, which includes significant investments and slightly differs from the House’s budget, with little contention from Republican legislators who have acquiesced to the increase in spending.
Vermont’s proposed 2024 budget received approval from the Senate on Wednesday, with a significant windfall of funding allocated towards reversing concerning trends in childcare, paid family and medical leave, and housing initiatives, all to be paid for by over $500 million in new taxes and fees.
“The requests for funding far exceeded what we’ve had for available funds. We’ve tried to prioritize. We’ve tried to connect, and try to make sure funding in one place is complementary in another,” said State Senator Jane Kitchel.
The fight between parties over the budget has centered around hundreds of millions of federal covid dollars that the state has at it’s disposal.
Governor Phil Scott and Senate Minority Leader Randy Brock want to slowly build programs without hurting Vermonter’s wallets even more.
“As one of the highest tax states in the nation, I simply cannot go along with adding to the problem,” said Scott.
“It’s great to have big, bold steps and moves if you can afford to pay for them. If you can’t afford to pay for them, you shouldn’t do them,” said Brock.
Senator Kitchel argues that fully funding new programs with one-time dollars is what the state needs and believes they can become self-sufficient.
“Many of them are providing essential services, and in fact, some of them are providing services that are put in place as a replacement for the old institutionally based delivery system,” said Kitchel.
This gap in philosophy came to head when discussing DMV fee hikes that the senate incorporated into the bill.
“The lack of having a fee bill for seven years has really put in danger the funding of departments which rely on the fees for the programs and the users of those programs,” said State Senator Alison Clarkson.
The Senate’s budget sets aside enough money to relay federal funds from the trillion-dollar infrastructure package passed by Congress in 2021.
A veto showdown is tentatively scheduled for the third week in June as the governor is still expected to veto the bill, setting up a contentious situation.