January 2021 Update
The 2021-2022 Vermont Legislative session got off to a historic start on January 6th, 2021 as the first-ever biennium initiated by video conference. On that day we elected our new Speaker of the House, Jill Krowinski of Burlington, VT. I'm incredibly excited to work under Jill's leadership, and very optimistic about what we can accomplish over the next two years.
We were just wrapping up our collective swearing-in ceremony when the first social media accounts of the invasion of the U.S. Capitol Building started to come in. The following day, the new Vermont House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning the instigation and perpetration of the attack, while calling for the former President's resignation. That vote passed with overwhelming tripartisan support.
Since the first day of the new session, I have been focused on the work of the House Ways and Means Committee. Although I have a solid foundation in education tax policy from my time on the MAUSD board as well as my time on the House Education Committee, there are many areas of our tax system that I'm just starting to learn. I'm appreciative for the opportunity this new committee assignment presents.
This past week the Vermont House approved a mid-year technical adjustment to keep the state's Fiscal Year 2021 budget in balance. H.138 passed with strong support and also included investments to support the Legislature's continuing response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Some funding highlights include:
- Coronavirus Relief Funds for emergency food, hotel-housing for the homeless, and rental assistance
- Support to the Vermont State Colleges for additional expenses related to COVID-19
- Continuation of the Everyone Eats program through June 2021, providing healthy meals prepared by restaurants to food-insecure Vermonters
- Funding for technical assistance to implement the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2020
- Completion of broadband extension projects
- Partial re-location costs for Burlington High School
Also this past week: we heard Governor Scott's address on his proposed budget FY '22 budget. Clearly, we are facing a much rosier revenue projection than was ever imagined last spring and summer. The current projection shows a significant revenue surplus, which gives us options to pay down debt obligations and to avoid any deficit in the general fund or the education fund. The Governor's budget proposal is a starting place and the legislature will respond in kind with our own priorities. In general, though, it seems that the legislative and executive branches share many of the same goals in this extraordinary year: responding to the ongoing effects of the pandemic by providing the necessary supports to our schools, businesses and municipal governments.
Vermonters are invited to weigh in on the Governor's proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget about the state programs and services they care about. The House and Senate Committees on Appropriations will be hosting hearings to receive public input on Mon., Feb. 8, from 1-2 pm and 6-7 pm via videoconference.
To testify, please register in advance (no later than Feb. 5) through the online form: https://legislature.vermont.gov/links/public-hearing-fy22-budget. There may be time limits on testimony, depending on the volume of participants—expect a time range of 2–3 minutes. The public hearings will be available to watch live on YouTube. More information is located here: https://bit.ly/3ozQ4N5
To view the Governor's FY 2022 recommended state budget: https://finance.vermont.gov/budget/budget-recommendations/operating-budget/fy2022