Last week was a barn burner in the legislature. In addition to the extensive work done in various committees, we also addressed dozens of bills on the floor. Topics ranged from pollinator protection to sexual harassment to airports and economic development – and lots else besides.
To pick just two:
Driven by the success of craft and micro brewers in Vermont, one bill updated and corrected the
unequal relationship between brewers and distributors. Previously, after one year of association,
a brewer was bound to that distributor for life. The distributor could sell or trade that account to
another distributor with the brewer having no say in the transaction.
Another bill set up a 3-year pilot program for a limited number of companies to expand energy
efficiency options available through Efficiency VT to include heating, processing fuels, and to
increase productivity. Historically, Efficiency VT programs have been strictly limited to electrical
efficiency (funded by the surcharge on our electric bills), though there are some Efficiency VT
programs, like weatherization, which use different funding sources. The bill also moved Omya
into a selective “self managed” energy program joining Global Foundries, the only previous
The coming week will also require some long hours on the floor as we debate the Budget Bill,
the Revenue Bill (including changes to state income tax and education funding), and firearm
legislation. This is also the time when we really start work on the bills the senate has sent over.
Income tax changes are driven in part by federal changes which would have resulted in big tax
breaks at the top end but requiring some middle income Vermonters to actually pay more. This
bill changes our tax basis from adjusted gross income to federal taxable income. Additionally it
reduces all tax brackets by 0.2%, creates a Vermont standard deduction, a Vermont personal
exemption, and raises the earned income tax credit to 35%, plus a few other things.
The Education Finance changes take this revised tax code and adds a School Income Tax
Surcharge ranging from 0.1% at the lowest end, to 1.0% on the highest incomes. That raises
$59 million which will then be used to reduce residential property taxes, though non-residential
rates remain unchanged. Other highlights include separating the municipal and school tax bills,
and providing dedicated income streams to the Education Fund (100% of sales tax receipts
instead of 35%), thus ending the contentious annual transfer from the General Fund to the
There are a lot of moving parts to all these proposals and we can expect numerous
amendments and spirited debate.
I will be at the Pawlet Library on March 31 from 10:00 to 12:00 to meet with constituents. Come
on by, Or let me know your thoughts by responding to this posting.