Minimum wage veto deals 2nd major blow to Vt. Democrats' agenda

Published: Feb. 11, 2020 at 5:53 PM EST
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Republican Governor Phil Scott Monday vetoed his second bill in less than two weeks, setting the stage for another veto override attempt in the Legislature. It comes as a devastating loss to Democrats, who have made boosting the minimum wage and paid family leave top priorities.

The bill would have raised the minimum wage to $11.75 next year and $12.55 in 2022. But Scott said he had concerns it would hurt rural Vermonters and small businesses. "The small mom and pop shops up in the Northeast Kingdom barely able to get by without a lot of traffic and volume to substantiate some of these higher wages -- it's not the same as Burlington," Scott said Tuesday.

Democrats in the Senate say they can easily override the veto of the minimum wage bill.

"The fundamental issue is a belief that people throughout the state who show up for work every day and work hard deserve to see their pay go up. We're trying anything we can do to make that happen," said Senate President Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden County.

But the prospects of an override in the House are less certain. The bill passed with just 93 votes, which is seven short of the 100 needed.

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, says she's still talking with other lawmakers to see how to proceed. She also says the minimum wage increase is a modest step that doesn't even approach a livable wage.

"Study after study after study has shown that wen you put money into the pockets of low-income people, that goes right back out into the community into our local stores, into auto repair shows, into fuel dealerships, into the grocery stores," Johnson said.

When the minimum wage bill passed the House, some of the no votes were cast by Democrats and Independents, which means lawmakers are in for an uphill battle.

Last week, lawmakers fell one short vote of attempting to override Scott's veto of a paid family leave bill.