Do Vt. lawmakers have the votes to override governor’s budget veto?

Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 6:05 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont lawmakers will return to Montpelier in two weeks for a veto session. They will try to override several of the governor’s vetoes, including the state budget. But it’s still not clear whether they have the votes.

This remains a very complex political situation with many outcomes. A handful of Democrats and Progressives have threatened to sustain Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s veto because the budget does not include more transitional funding for homeless Vermonters losing their hotel housing. This has created an awkward situation, putting some at odds with their own party.

But some say they found a way to advance funding without causing inter-party conflict. The leader of the Progressive Caucus, Rep. Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, says there’s another way without making the budget larger. She’s working on a new bill that could be expedited during the veto session. It would take funds that have already been set aside for future federal infrastructure matches and use them for homeless housing.

“We think the need is now to be responsive to the needs now with the money we have on hand. In an $8.5 billion budget. That’s why we keep saying this is a political problem, not a money problem. There is a way to do that without reopening the budget and adding any additional funds whatsoever,” said Mulvaney-Stanak, P-Burlington.

Since the money is not attached to the budget, Mulvaney-Stanak says a political standoff or a government shutdown could be averted. This is if the House speaker and other top Democrats go along with the plan.

But in the meantime, she says they are still negotiating what those transitional supports for the homeless should look like.

It remains to be seen whether the governor would go along with the plan. It wouldn’t add any new expenses to this year’s budget which he says is already too large. But he criticized lawmakers for not setting aside enough federal match funds earlier this session.

There’s no word yet from the Senate, but the upper chamber is a much different body with different priorities and a different style. There are also more moderate Democrats, including the head of the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Jane Kitchel, who chose not to extend the hotel-motel program at the end of the session.

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