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Vermont Gov. Scott indecisive on proposed social programs championed by Democrats

Republican Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said Wednesday that he remains indecisive on potential vetoes of key Democratic agenda items, including clean heat mandates and DMV fee hikes.

Vermont’s fiscally conservative Republican governor said Wednesday he hasn’t decided whether to veto a number of key social programs passed by the state’s Democratic-controlled Legislature, but that he believes lawmakers are spending too much money.

Gov. Phil Scott said he shares many of the goals of the Legislature, which passed bills in the just-completed session to expand child care, pay for universal school meals and fight climate change, among other things.

Taken together, the bills passed by the Legislature, which include a $100 million payroll tax, $20 million in increases in fees at the Department of Motor Vehicles and $180 million in proposed clean heat mandates, could end up costing each Vermont household $1,200, he said.


It's likely Scott will veto a number of those bills, which would go back to the Legislature for a late-June veto session.

Scott said he won a majority of votes in each Vermont community last fall. But Vermonters also elected Democratic supermajorities to the state House and Senate.

"Vermonters voted for balance and expected us to work together," Scott told reporters during his weekly news conference Wednesday. ""But they’ve also been loud and clear with me: They didn’t think Vermont was affordable enough before this legislative session."

Democratic House Speaker Jill Krowinski said after Scott's news conference that lawmakers are following the will of the people, who wanted them to do more about issues such as affordable child care and universal school meals. The House passed those bills by big enough margins that they would have the two-thirds votes needed to override gubernatorial vetoes.

"We’ll continue to talk with the governor about what his concerns are, but I feel strongly about the legislation we passed to help Vermonters in all 14 counties," she said.

Democratic President Pro Tempore Phil Baruth said Scott has voiced his support for expanded child care, but his proposals to pay for it wouldn't meet the need and the money would have to come from cuts elsewhere. Instead, the Legislature's $150 million child care plan that would increase subsidies for parents and increase pay for child care workers would be paid for with help from a 0.44% payroll tax split between employers and employees.

"I think it’s a very workable option that we wound up with, one that will transform the childcare sector," Baruth said.


Earlier this month, Scott vetoed legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging Vermonters to move away from using fossil fuels to heat their homes. He felt the legislation could end up punishing Vermonters who are least able to afford to switch from fossil fuels.

But lawmakers came back last week and overrode his veto.

Lawmakers are already planning to return to Montpelier late next month for a veto session.

"He’s queuing up up a number of vetoes on very popular policy proposals that Democrats and Progressives have spent decades getting to this point," Baruth said. "I think it’s likely that we’re going to be able to override on most of them. To me that’s a cautionary tale for Phil Scott. Being popular doesn’t mean you can oppose popular ideas.

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