This week we passed the budget, tax and capital bills out of the House. I also reported on a community broadband bill to the House of Representatives where it received a 139-2 vote. The bill is the result of years and years of work by many folks up from all over Vermont and provides a path forward for communities to receive technical, planning and financial assistance to solve Vermont’s last mile internet challenge. The bill must pass the Senate and be signed into law by Governor Scott in order to be enacted.
Balancing out the week…
We also spent (6+ hours) time debating and caucusing over an increased fuel tax bill for weatherization which many climate activists were demanding receive a vote. I voted no on the bill – not because I am opposed to raising funds for weatherization or because I fail to see the urgency of climate change. I voted no because the tax came to the floor without having been reviewed by a policy committee for context with other weatherization efforts this year or determining the effectiveness of the tax for meeting Vermont’s weatherization goals. It was a shortsighted move by activists, made even worse by impassioned speeches from a handful of (mostly Chittenden County) colleagues voicing opposition to an exemption for our struggling dairy and forest sectors.
In contrast, the Workforce Development Bill, a comprehensive effort which has been worked on all session by the House Committee on Commerce, had less then 10 minutes of discussion on the floor each day it was in front of the House because of the lateness of the hour (after weatherization) both days it was debated.
Bills of note
The House budget passed with only one no vote on Friday. Budget highlights
Substance Use Disorders/Mental Health
- 12 new beds at the Brattleboro Retreat that are scheduled to come on line in the Spring of 2020
- $540K in additional funding for Community Rehabilitation and Treatment (CRT) to enable additional intensive support services
- $1.5M one-time funds for an electronic medical/health records system for the Designated Agencies
- $260K one-time funds to increase support for Recovery Centers
Aging and Disabilities
- Provides for a 2% rate increase for Home and Community based providers including Home Health Agencies, Adult Day Providers, Meals on Wheels, and TBI Waiver service providers
Economic Development, Housing, and Child Care
- Increases child care funding by $7.96M and $1M one-time funds for Parent-Child Center infrastructure improvements
- $100K one-time funds for the VT Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC).
- Level funds the Vermont Housing Conservation Board
- Adds $100K one-time funds for micro business loans
- Uses one-time funds to increase Working Lands Program funding by $1.5M and the Farm-to-School Program by 50K
Climate Commission InitiativesFunds Governor’s Climate Commission initiatives including
- Provides for weatherization services for moderate income Vermonters, and training to provide weatherization services
- Extends agreement with Efficiency Vermont to support efficiency staff in state buildings
- Funds a $1.5M electric vehicle incentive program and $300K for electric vehicle charging stations around the State
- Funds $500K for electric vehicles and charging stations for State government
- Provides a $3M increase to the base funding for the Vermont State Colleges
- Adds $500K one-time funds to the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation for Advancement grants (formerly Non-Degree grant Program)
- Increases funding for the Need Based Stipend for the Dual Enrollment Program
- H.533 Commerce and Workforce Development provides $1.595 to include support marketing, relocation services for people moving to Vermont, grants to provide weatherization training, equipment for robotics training, and other workforce education and training funds
- H.513 Broadband Telecom Bill provides $1,540,000 to include support a loan reserve at VEDA to administer the Broadband Expansion Loan Program, grants through the Broadband Innovation Grant Program for feasibility studies in underserved areas, Connectivity Initiative grants, and ThinkVermont Initiative technical assistance to municipalities planning broadband projects
Childcare H.531 An act relating to Vermont’s child care and early learning system was voted out of the House 133-0 on Wednesday. The bill invests $10.5 million in Vermont’s childcare and early learning system, and includes increased reimbursement rates to childcare providers, a student loan program for early educators to further their professional development, and invests in the revamp of the Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP).
Everyone student deserves to have access to their history.– Amanda Garces, Vermont Coalition for Ethnic and Social Equity in Schools
Tax Bill H.541: An act relating to changes that affect the revenue of the State
Tax Bill Details
- Reduces the percentage exclusion within the current capital gains exclusion from 40% to 30% and limiting the percentage exclusion to $450,000 in total capital gains exclusions. This would effectively limit the exclusion to capital gains of $1.5 million or less.
- Expands the cap on the Affordable Housing Tax Credit and the First Time Home buyer Tax Credit by $125,000 each.
- Expands the cap on the Downtown and Village Center Tax Credit program from $2.4 million to $2.6 million.
- Increases the estate tax exclusion over two years. Beginning January 1, 2020, the estate tax exclusion rises from $2.75 million to $4.25 million. On January 1, 2021, the exclusion rises to $5 million.
- Changes the definitions of “operator” and “rent” to include online travel agencies (OTAs) and their associated transaction fees or commissions.
- Expands the tax base for the Property Transfer Tax and Clean Water Surcharge to include transfers of controlling interests in a property. This would include property transfers where a business or entity takes a majority ownership stake in a property without a title change.
- Make significant changes to the Land Gains Tax such that it would apply to a small number of land transfers. Only land subdivided by the transfer or within six years prior to the sale or exchange would be subject to the tax. Also exempts land transferred in a downtown development district, a village center, or new town center development.
- Extends the sunset on the Fuel Tax for 5 years and expands the base to include any non profit agency and any governmental entity in Vermont (which removes the exemption in place since 2016).
- Extending the sunset for the health information technology tax to July 1, 2020.
- Extending the sunset for Home Health Provider Tax to July 1, 2021
Workforce Bill H.533 makes various changes to workforce training programs including the Vermont Training Program, adds Weatherization Training, creates a worker relocation program at the Department of Labor, directs the creation of a military recruitment program, creates a task force on workforce development opportunities for refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers living in Vermont. The bill allocates to the Agency of Commerce for 250K for marketing employment opportunities and 250K for recruitment efforts.
April 2nd – Public Hearing Regarding S.169, Firearms Procedures The Vermont General Assembly will hold a public hearing on S.169, Firearms Procedures, on April 2, 2019. The hearing will be held at the State House in Montpelier from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. The hearing is being held by the House Committee on Judiciary. Details
April 3 is Tourism Day at the Statehouse. This day, organized by Rep. Heidi Scheuermann of Stowe, will include a House Commerce and Economic Development Committee hearing on the importance of tourism, informational tables and displays about the industry, and other activities.
April 4th – Ranked Choice Voting public information session
Kyle Bailey, a key organizer from thesuccessful Maine effort, and public interest groups familiar with Vermont’s previous Ranked Choice Voting efforts will join sponsors of the bill from 5:30 – 6:30 pm in Room 10 of the Statehouse. Brief voting demonstrations and historical presentations on the Maine and Vermont efforts will be followed by an opportunity for legislators and the public to ask question.
House Rural Economic Development Working Group
In the news:
- Vermont House Overwhelmingly Approves Community Broadband
- Vermont Senate Backs Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags, Foam Containers
- Solar incentives to dip, yet industry predicts steady growth
- Vermont House Promotes Home Weatherization With Fuel Tax
- Did Vermont’s House just pass a carbon tax?
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.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, or if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Laura Sibilia
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham