Tim Ashe: Vermonters would lose on Scott's threatened vetoes

Governor Phil Scott recently penned a letter to legislators listing legislation he intends to veto. The veto list shouldn't be viewed in terms of which Montpelier politicians will "win," but rather how these vetoes will impact the people of Vermont.

For instance, the Senate voted to increase Vermont's minimum wage by $4.50 over six years. The proposal, currently being reviewed by the House, will raise the pay of tens of thousands of workers left behind by the national economy, while reducing those Vermonters' reliance on taxpayer-funded public benefits.

Governor Scott writes that he will veto an increase in the minimum wage. He's expressed his belief that the market, left to itself, will reverse the very income inequality that it created.

A veto of the bill will deny a long overdue raise to tens of thousands of low-wage Vermont workers (most of whom are adults working full-time).

On Town Meeting Day, local voters passed 96 percent of school budgets. The budgets reflect a growth rate in education spending that is less than half what had been anticipated, and a full 40 percent lower than the governor's request of school boards. The Legislature commends the work of Vermont's school boards, and respects the w ill of the voters who passed these budgets.

Governor Scott, however, says he will veto a bill that raises the money to fund these school budgets, despite the fact school spending growth came in so far below his own hard targets.

There is certainly more work to do to make school spending as efficient as possible. A veto, though, will lead to recklessly hacking at school budgets and public education. A veto also represents a disregard for Town Meeting Day voters.

Because they didn't comply the first time, the Senate has again directed the Scott Administration to develop a long-term funding plan to clean up Vermont's waters. This is no small matter — Vermont is under a federal EPA order to develop this plan.

Governor Scott says he will veto the bill because, well, it asks for a funding plan, even though a plan is required by the EPA and failure to produce one could lead to costly federal mandates.

A veto of this bill, which passed unanimously in the Senate, will likely delay cleanup of our waters. Blue-green algae blooms, beach closures, and other environmental degradation will just be that much harder to tackle.

In response to recent security breaches, the Senate voted to regulate massive data companies like Equifax in order to protect consumers. The bill charges such companies a fee to cover the cost of oversight, and it eliminates the fees companies like Equifax charge Vermonters for placing credit history freezes. Many Vermonters were rightly incensed when Equifax charged them fees to protect their credit histories when it was Equifax whose negligence necessitated the credit freezes.

Governor Scott says he will veto the bill because of the fee it creates for Equifax and similar companies. A veto means Equifax will not be held responsible, and Vermont consumers will continue to be ripped off.

And finally, the Senate continues to work to finalize the budget for the coming year. We are working to restore cuts proposed by the governor to services for the developmentally disabled and programs that serve people with serious physical challenges like quadriplegics. We're working to undo the governor's proposal to increase 6,100 low and moderate income Vermonters' health care costs by an average of $260 year. Last year the governor vetoed a budget that had received nearly unanimous support from all parties in the Legislature. We hope this year yet another broadly supported budget will be signed not vetoed.

These veto threats should be seen for what they will do — keep thousands of full time, adult workers in poverty; destabilize approved school budgets; delay action on much-needed environmental clean up; prioritize the interests of massive data firms over Vermonters'; and pull the rug out from many of Vermont's most vulnerable citizens.

Tim Ashe (D-Burlington) is president pro tem of the Vermont State Senate.


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