The Word in the House 6/5/2020 - House Passes Major Bills in Prolonged Session

As the lockdown of the Vermont economy continues to ease, the legislature has continued its work remotely via video-conferencing.  Meeting as an All-House Caucus each week on Tuesday, briefings are provided to all members on bills that will be coming up for a vote in the Wednesday and Friday floor sessions.  Members hear the reports of the committees that prepared the bills with an opportunity to ask questions and make comments. Those bills are then debated during the floor sessions, amendments are considered, and votes are taken.  During a normal session, this process is open to anyone who comes to the statehouse or who might tune into VPR’s live stream of the proceedings. Our virtual sessions, however, open up the proceedings to anyone with an internet-capable device at There you can find the links to the House or Senate sessions as well as to scheduled committee meetings that take place during the week. Click on the Announcements link to find the times for the proceedings.

In recent weeks, the House has passed several  major bills to keep the state on an even keel during the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Supplemental Budget Adjustment (SBA) bill will take us through the rest of the 2020 fiscal year which ends on June 30th. With the deferral of the income tax filing deadline to July 15th as well as certain other tax payments, revenues expected in this fiscal year will not be received until the first quarter of FY21 and are anticipated to be lower than was expected in January.  The SBA bill adjusts spending but also allows borrowing from funds controlled by the State Treasurer until the deferred revenues are received.  It sets a date certain for repayment of those loans with interest. The SBA bill is now under consideration by the Senate.

At the same time, the House has been working on the “Skinny Budget” bill for the first quarter of FY21. The plan is to map out the first quarter, see where we are with respect to the economy, federal assistance and revenues at the end of August and then reconvene to create a budget for the rest of the fiscal year. The major components of the budget consist of the Capital Bill (H.955), the Transportation Bill (H.942), and the Yield Bill (H.959). These will be folded into the Appropriations Bill that defines the budget.  The Capital Bill addresses the spending needed to administer and maintain state properties and infrastructure including correctional facilities, office buildings, state parks, etc. The Transportation Bill does the same for the Vermont Agency of Transportation and includes roads and bridges, aid to municipalities, rail, mass transit, etc. The Yield Bill sets education tax rates based on the budgets approved by school districts in March.  However, some districts have not yet voted on school budgets, and less money is expected from the sales and use tax, which goes entirely into the Education Fund. Those reasons and the uncertainty of federal education assistance due to the pandemic led the Ways & Means Committee to set the property tax rates at the same level as was expected prior to the pandemic in order to provide municipalities firm numbers to work with for local tax rates.  Legislation later this summer will adjust these expectations as necessary. The bill also allows towns to borrow money for the education tax payments due the state with the interest covered by federal CARES Act money. All these bills will require passage by the Senate.

The legislature will continue to work until the “Skinny Budget” has passed in concurrence with the Senate. As always, I welcome your emails ( or phone calls (802-233-5238).