Scott receives budget bill after formal request for immediate delivery

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott’s office received the 2018 fiscal year budget bill from the House Friday afternoon after it submitted a formal request for immediate delivery, setting the stage for the governor to veto the budget and a property tax bill sometime next week.

Lawmakers had maintained possession of the 2018 fiscal year budget since they passed it two weeks ago and adjourned the 2017 legislative session. Another bill that sets property tax rates, known as the yield bill, was delivered to the governor Thursday.

Gov. Phil Scott (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

Scott has vowed to veto both pieces of legislative because they do not account for a savings of up to $26 million in the Education Fund that he began demanding from lawmakers in mid-April. Scott is seeking to capture savings from new health care plans that will be offered to all Vermont teachers in January. Those plans will have lower premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs. The governor has maintained that the higher out-of-pocket costs can be covered with the $75 million in projected premiums savings, leaving up to $26 million leftover.

The Republican governor and Democrats that lead both the House and Senate have significant disagreements about how to achieve the savings. The governor’s approach, according to the Democrats, would infringe on the collective bargaining rights of teachers.

Brittney Wilson, Scott’s secretary of Civil and Military Affairs, said the administration requested the budget bill first in a phone call to House Clerk William MaGill Friday morning. The administration followed up Friday afternoon with a formal written request.

Bills typically go through a review process by legislative lawyers and analysts before being forwarded to the governor for his consideration. But Wilson said an exhaustive review of the budget language is unnecessary.

“Given the fact that it’s a bill that the governor would veto, I don’t know that it needs to go through the review process,” she said.

Magill said the request made by the administration in the phone call does not have any legal authority. “At this point it’s not ready to go,” he said of the budget bill before the formal request was submitted.

MaGill said the administration can take steps to require him to expedite the process, however.

“There’s a formal request that has to be submitted to my office and it’s typically about a day or so after I get that request that I could get it there,” he said. “Review would have to get expedited and then we would have to get that over.”

Wilson submitted the formal request to MaGill Friday afternoon, citing a section of the joint rules of the House and Senate. MaGill then handed the official legislation over immediately.

Democratic legislative leaders have criticized the governor for promising to veto the budget over the teacher health care dispute. They have argued the dispute is limited to the yield bill. But the administration has maintained that the two bills are linked because money raised in the yield bill is spent in the budget.

Wilson said the administration is looking to veto both bills at the same time. That could help further the administration’s argument that the budget bill, which initially cleared both chambers with just one vote against it, should also be vetoed.

However, the clock was already ticking on the yield bill. The governor has five days to sign, veto or let a bill become law without his signature once it arrives at his desk. Wilson said the administration wanted the budget so the pair can be vetoed together.

“I think that makes some sense. There’s really no point in waiting … since we do kind of view that as a package deal,” she said.

Lawmakers are scheduled to meet on June 21 for a veto session. The administration and legislative leaders will look to find agreement through negotiations ahead of the one- or two-day veto session.

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