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Scott vetoes pension reform bill; Friday adjournment unlikely

Published: May. 2, 2022 at 3:58 PM EDT|Updated: May. 3, 2022 at 6:47 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s a race to the finish line in Montpelier. Vermont lawmakers are working around the clock to adjourn by Friday, and now they have at least one veto to deal with.

Monday afternoon, Gov. Phil Scott vetoed a bill aimed at shoring up Vermont’s $3 billion unfunded liability.

The bipartisan plan brokered with the unions funnels $200 million in one-time dollars and makes future retirees pay more into the system.

But Governor Scott vetoed the measure, saying it should include systemic reforms like risk-sharing and a 401(k) option.

He said the current plan will come back to haunt Vermont, and when it does, the state will not have federal funds to fall back on.

“The Legislature’s unwillingness to question the deal reached between a handful of union and legislative representatives will come back to haunt our state in the not-too-distant future. And when it does, we won’t have the unprecedented level of federal funds and state surplus dollars at our disposal, and the fix will be tougher on both taxpayers and public employees.” Scott, R-Vermont, said in a statement.

The Vermont teachers union calls the veto irresponsible and the state employees union says they’re furious.

The plan passed the House and Senate unanimously, so lawmakers could vote to override the veto.

Top Senate lawmakers tell me it’s unlikely they will be able to wrap up on Friday as they hoped given the mountain of work they need to get through.

They say they will have to carry their work into next week and will have late nights on the floor next week, in part, because there are still some big policy items that need to be addressed before the budget can pass, like climate change, education finance reform, and economic and workforce development bills.

And some lawmakers are isolating after a handful of COVID cases at the Statehouse last week.

But some of the biggest policy backlogs deal with leveraging tax and economic development benefits. Democrats want to give relief to young families while the governor wants to pass tax breaks for veterans and retirees.

And there’s disagreement on a housing bill that contains a rental registry.

Scott has threatened to veto the budget over some of these concerns.

Top lawmakers tell me that they are focusing on their work right now and that they want to come to a consensus with the governor.

Lawmakers say that if they can’t come to an agreement, they are also making contingency plans to override a veto if needed.

Democrat Speaker Jill Krowinski and Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint Becca Balint say they do plan to override the veto.

In a joint statement, they say they’re disappointed.

“We stand with our teachers and public employees to proudly defend the collaborative work we did to take on the looming pension crisis and protect our public pensions,” the two said in a statement.

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