Coalition of 17 lawmakers threaten to sustain possible budget veto

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 6:49 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - A deadline is looming in Montpelier, where Gov. Phil Scott has until Saturday night to act on Vermont’s $8.5 billion state budget. It comes as a growing coalition of Democrats and Progressives are threatening to sustain a possible veto if more money isn’t added for emergency shelter for the homeless, and testing House leadership’s ability to whip members into line.

A coalition of 17 House Democrats and Progressives voted against the budget because it did not include emergency hotel funding that phases out starting next week. They say they want more support for the homeless and the communities where they will live, and want to avoid people sleeping on the streets. They say that could come in the form of more funding for emergency shelters, case workers, adjustments to the hotel program, and even a statewide camping policy.

“We need to be thinking of a way to buffer and gently plan the next steps of where they’re going,” said Rep. Barbara Rachelson, D-Burlington.

The Agency of Human Services is reaching out to towns and service providers in an effort to link them with funding for shelter expansion and more caseworkers.

Governor Scott last week signaled he would veto the budget, voicing concerns about a 13% increase in spending and new taxes. He says he and Democrats share priorities but a difference in how to achieve them.

House Speaker Krowinski this week urged the governor to sign the budget to “ensure funds allocated to assist the most vulnerable Vermonters are available as soon as possible.” She laid the blame on the impending crisis on the Scott administration. “For nearly two years, we have asked the Governor and his administration to present a plan to address the transition of people from the motel program into other housing. No comprehensive plan has ever been presented and now municipalities across the state are forced to manage this transition on their own.”

Lawmakers will be back in late June for the veto session. Krowinski acknowledges ending the hotel program is difficult and that the budget is already jampacked with important initiatives including housing and child care. Krowinski says she will try to make that case to breakaway lawmakers in the coming weeks.

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