Legislative Update - 13 MAY 2023

Dear Constituents –

The Legislature adjourned just shy of midnight Friday night. It was a long day, with bills being amended in Committees and coming and going on the House floor. The pace of this session started at a run on January 4 and never slowed down! The main attraction, and the only must-pass bill that was left by 10PM was H.494, the Budget “Big Bill”, and it was saved until the bitter end. This is an $8.5 billion piece of legislation, the likes of which Vermonters have never seen before, and I hope to never see again. It represents a 13% increase in spending, including one-time money that was meant for historic investments in infrastructure and initiatives, not for on-going programs that will need to be supported in the future when we won’t have this funding windfall. This bill, combined with other very costly pieces of legislation, including childcare (H.217), Universal School Meals (H.165), increased professional registration fees (H.305), increased DMV fees (in H.494), and the pay raise/compensation package legislators voted themselves (S.39), not to mention S.5 the UN-affordable heat act, will make Vermont the second most expensive state to live in after Hawaii.  This is not a distinction that I am proud of. Those of us who opposed these tax and fee increases in a time of surplus, with the dread that these initiatives will be on-going without the continued influx of federal dollars, tried to convince the majority party that they were squandering once in a lifetime monies, which should be saved as federal match money or capital investment; those pleas fell on deaf ears, and we will all be paying the price as we watch our cost of living increase unsustainably.  On the House floor, during vote explanations for my no vote on the budget, I pointed out that with hundreds of millions of dollars in spending on new programs and personnel to stand up those programs, the General Assembly could not see fit to take up a bill honoring military retirees and their survivors who made the ultimate sacrifice with state income tax exemptions, the cost of which would be $3.5M – a drop in the bucket of an $8.5B budget – even though that bill has been introduced for five bienniums. Vermonters will continue to leave the State when their service commitment is fulfilled.

As a leader in the majority party stated, “elections have consequences”; well, we will certainly see the consequences of the 2022 election of a Democratic supermajority in the coming years as these programs take effect and we must dream up ways to pay for them. The only way to stop this tidal wave of spending is to elect more fiscally conservative members to the General Assembly, so we have a chance to put up alternatives that are supported by many and not just a few.  That starts with each and every one of us thinking hard about who we want to represent us from our communities and if their views reflect the values that truly benefit all Vermonters. We get another chance to see that “elections have consequences” in 2024, and now is not too soon to think about how to make that happen.

I welcome your comments and concerns at [email protected]. It is an honor to serve you.

Stay well,

Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5


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