Vermont Legislature passes $7.3B budget, adjourns historic session

Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 6:18 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont lawmakers have signed off on a $7 billion budget and adjourned for the year after a legislative session like no other.

There were no handshakes or hugs as the final gavel came down on the virtual legislative session, only a sigh of relief from House and Senate lawmakers and a moment of reflection.

The session has been defined by remote legislating during the pandemic, allocating hundreds of millions of federal pandemic relief dollars for housing, businesses, child care, and public health. They also made historic investments in broadband. Legislators also allocated nearly $90 million to stabilize the state’s college system with the largest investment in higher education in Vermont history.

Lawmakers in the Senate gaveled out virtually while just a handful of senators attended in person. House lawmakers gaveled out as well and heard from Governor Scott, who congratulated them on their work and diligence.

“We started the session with not having a vaccine yet, with an insurrection at the Capitol, with a new president -- so much uncertainty -- and people really came together with the House and the Senate and the executive branch. I’m feeling so good right now about the work we’ve done,” said Senate President Becca Balint, D-Windham.

Leaders in the Statehouse say this was a bipartisan collaboration to ensure Vermonters’ needs are reflected in the budget.

“We really wanted, again, Vermonters to know that we have their interests in mind and not getting bogged down in politics,” said Balint.

“We felt strongly about communication and so we were in constant contact about what was working and what wasn’t working and making sure our values were showing through in this budget,” said Speaker of the Vermont House Jill Krowinski. “We came together at the end with a shared vision of how we can build back stronger from this pandemic.”

Lawmakers also sent a $7 billion state spending plan to Governor Scott that includes key investments in housing, climate change, and broadband. There’s also a $150 million reserve investment into the state’s pension funds.

Gov. Scott said the budget appears to be something he will support “barring anything unforeseen” that he didn’t see in the last minute details.

Lawmakers will return in mid-June for a veto session, but it’s unclear what bills they will take up. The governor has several key bills on his desk right now which he’ll take action on in the next few days.

There are also several summer study committees to keep lawmakers busy until they return next January.

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