Reports and notes of interest from the third week of the legislature below:
Governor presents his proposed 2020 Budget
I heard testimony last session and this fall that caused me to be concerned about our current ability to protect Vermonters’ data 24/7. I’m happy to see the added investments being made to ensure the Agency of Digital Services continues to upgrade our cyber security capacity.
My initial thoughts on the budget:
The governor has identified a million and a half dollars and new bonding legislation toward helping municipalities start to craft solutions for last mile telecommunications. This is an important and significant step by the administration. The Legislature will be proposing additional initiatives in the coming days, and also looking to ensure that we all have a thorough understanding of the public safety risks being experienced in the disconnected parts of Vermont.
Proposed childcare and college education initiatives should not be funded out of the education fund (as has been proposed). Increasing workforce programming at the career tech centers will require significant scrutiny. We are seeing success in distributed career training programs, so I’d want to understand better how this proposal will be structured to ensure it is accessible to all students and doesn’t exacerbate existing inequities in secondary education.
I applaud the proposal to remove the tax from military retirees’ pay. We are one of only a few states in the U.S. that still tax this — an unneeded incentive for our military retirees to move out of state.
Telecom initiatives and proposals are beginning to be introduced
A major focus for me in this biennium is ensuring all Vermonters are consistently able to call for emergency services, access Vermont’s government and engage in both the Vermont and the global economy. Governor Scott’s Proposed FY 2020 Budget takes some significant steps in this direction including enabling language for municipal bonding and the potential for a VEDA loan fund. The administration also announced a partnership with Microsoft which we will hope to hear more about in the coming weeks. A number of bills I have been working on were introduced this week including assessing the ability of electric utilities to provide internet access services. The bill introduced is modeled directly after legislation which passed in Virginia. Former gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist is expected to testify in our committee on the concept which she spoke about during her campaign.
A reminder: You’re landline telephone is supposed to be working and providing clear reliable communications, being repaired and new service installed in a timely fashion. What to do if your land line phone is not working in Vermont
A Vermont law has been introduced to put existing federal law – ensuring a women’s access to abortion – into Vermont statute. Self-determination and Freedom of Religion factor strongly into my support for this action which simply codifies existing federal law without changes. All women have the right to determine their health care and all Vermonters have the right to live their lives according to their private religious convictions. I understand this is an issue about which voters typically have strong opinions, so I will restate – there is no change or expansion of the existing law in the proposed state statute. Governor Scott has indicated he would sign this language in it’s current form.
Decarbonization Study Released
Our committee and the Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to hear about a report the legislature commissioned last year: An Analysis of Decarbonization Methods in Vermont – Executive Summary The Governor has stated he will not support a carbon tax. I have been consistent that I believe we need to get off fossil fuels as soon as possible but will not support a single state carbon tax or efforts that don’t acknowledge and assist working and rural Vermonters with alternative vehicles or heat.
Here are the key findings from the report:
- Emissions in Vermont have been increasing since 2011, and the state is currently well above a pathway that would meet any of its GHG emissions targets.
- Vermont is unlikely to meet its emissions targets with a carbon-pricing-only strategy unless the carbon price is substantially higher than the prices modeled in this study ($19 to $77 per metric ton of CO2 equivalent in 2025).Vermont has a high share of emissions from transportation and heating fuel use; both sectors are difficult to decarbonize through carbon pricing or nonpricing policies.
- Combining moderate carbon pricing and nonpricing policy approaches could reduce emissions to meet Vermont’s US Climate Alliance target; under this approach, emissions are projected to be 32–38 percent below 2005 levels in 2025 compared with the target of 26–28 percent.
- Combining policies such as those described in the study would not meet the state’s statutory 2028 target (58 percent below 2005 levels or 50 percent below 1990 levels).
- Economic modeling of a range of carbon pricing designs (without nonpricing policies) suggests:
- The combined climate and health benefits of the carbon pricing policies would exceed the economic costs for every carbon pricing scenario considered in this report.
- Impacts on the state’s GDP, level of employment, and overall economic welfare would be very small, regardless of carbon pricing policy design.
- A carbon pricing policy could generate $74.7–$433.8 million in annual revenue in 2025, depending on the carbon price amount and number of sectors covered.
- In choosing how to use the revenue raised through a carbon pricing policy, policymakers face trade-offs among environmental outcomes, overall economic costs, and the impacts on different types of households. Policymakers can divide total revenues across multiple uses, balancing these tradeoffs.
- According to our modeling analysis, per household rebates more than offset the costs of increased energy prices for the average low-income household.
- Reducing taxes on wage income would lower the overall cost to Vermont’s economy relative to other options considered, but these cuts would not fully offset higher energy prices.
- Devoting revenue to finance nonpricing policies would reduce emissions further, but would also impose higher costs on Vermonters, because this would reduce funds that could be used to partially or fully offset the economic impacts on households of carbon pricing.
Rep Sibilia in the news:
- State’s wireless coverage map shows phone company estimates overstated
- Bill seeks to allow out-of-state domestic violence convictions to enhance penalty in Vermont
- Lawmakers try to put brakes on school mergers
- Martial Lawmakers: Should the Legislature Elect the Leader of the Vermont National Guard?
Click here to monitor the bills I introduce, my committees work and my votes on roll call votes on the legislative website. You can also see what the House and Senate will be taking up each day and listen to proceedings live on VPR.