Vermont House overrides minimum wage veto

Published: Feb. 25, 2020 at 6:13 AM EST
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The Vermont House has voted to override Republican Gov. Phil Scott's veto of a minimum wage bill, paving the way for the state's hourly wage to increase to $12.55 by 2022.

The bill -- now law -- calls for raising the minimum wage from $10.96 to $11.75 next year and $12.55 by 2022. The Senate voted 24-6 in favor of the veto override earlier this month.

The vote, which was mostly along party lines, is a major win for Democrats, who made the minimum wage one of their biggest priorities after having a $15 increase vetoed in 2018.

"This was a compromise to give people a wage increase, and I think that issue on its own was enough to get us across the finish line," said said House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington.

The vote originally passed the House seven votes shy needed for the override. But Democrats scrambled to flip as many members as possible, including Rep. Charles Kimbell, D-Woodstock. He says he originally doubted the measure would help raise wages across the board, but reversed his vote after talking to constituents.

"They were still thinking it was $15 an hour and said we couldn't afford that. And I said, 'I know. We're talking about $11.75 and $12.55.' That helped me make the decision to support the bill and override the governor's veto," Kimbell said.

Republican lawmakers point out that there will be consequences from the vote, including putting stress on the Vermont Visiting Nurse Association.

"They cannot afford an increase in minimum wage, they just cannot afford it. These are the very people that are helping our sick and infirm people in the state. So, that was a huge concern for me," said House Minority Leader Rep. Patricia McCoy, R-Rutand.

It's the second time this session lawmakers have challenged a veto from Governor Phil Scott. House Members failed to override a veto on a mandatory paid family leave plan earlier this month by just one vote.

It's also the first veto override in over a decade. Lawmakers in 2009 overrode Governor Jim Douglas' vetoes of the state budget and the same sex marriage bill.

But now that minimum wage is set in motion, Democrats say it's a step in creating a Vermont that works for everyone. "Today, with a coalition of Progressives, Democrats, and Independents, we were able to give Vermonters a wage and give them a fair shot. I'm very proud of that," Krowinski said.

Governor Scott and other GOP members have said they are concerned about the impact on wages and small businesses, especially in rural parts of the state.

Scott declined to comment about the vote on camera, instead issuing a statement. "...with the Legislature choosing to override these concerns, I hope for the sake of our rural communities they are correct. We simply cannot sustain more job losses or closed businesses, particularly outside the greater Burlington area," he said.

With minimum wage out of the way, lawmakers now have their sights set on a measure to create a legal market for marijuana, another measure Scott has been reluctant to support.