Vermont Legislature, governor have different ideas on budget

Vermont News

Vermont senators sit spaced apart to meet the social distance requirements set by the governor, Tuesday March 24, 2020, at the Statehouse in Montpelier, Vt.

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled Vermont Legislature and Republican Gov. Phil Scott have different visions of how the state should spend about $1 billion from the American Rescue Plan.

It’s unclear how those differences will play out as the Legislature wraps up its work and prepares to adjourn for the year, possibly next week, but it’s possible Scott could veto the budget.

The governor wants to spend the federal money on housing, economic recovery initiatives, water and sewer, universal broadband, and climate change initiatives. He says the state has to begin using that money now. “I feel strongly that we can’t squander this opportunity, that we need to utilize this to transform Vermont,” Scott said this week.

The legislature agrees with many of Scott’s goals, but they also want to use some of the funding to prop up the state colleges, workforce development, and mental health. They say the state has four years to spend the money so there is no rush.

“We don’t want Vermonters to feel like we’re going to lose an opportunity. We have time to get this right,” Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, a Democrat from Windham County, tells WCAX-TV.

Federal officials this week released new guidelines of how the money can be spent and legislative economists are analyzing how that could affect their spending plans.

Democratic House Speaker Jill Krowinski, of Burlington, said they are hoping for the best. “If that doesn’t happen and it ends with a veto, then we’re going to have to end with a veto override or a compromise to get us to a shared goal to get us through this crisis,” she said.

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