By REP. BOB BANCROFT
It was a relatively slow week on the floor of the House. Committees were busy working on bills that have come over from the Senate.
Ten bills came before the full House. With the exception of a couple of town charter changes, the bills were either Senate bills sent over to the House or House bills passed earlier in the session that the Senate wanted amended. I do not believe any of them are of wide spread interest to voters in Essex and Westford.
A complete listing of bills passed by the House and the Senate can be found at https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/passed/2020.
There is one Senate bill, S.126, that hopefully will come up for a vote in both legislative chambers. S.126 will restore the medical cost income tax deduction that was eliminated in the 2017 rewrite of Vermont’s tax code which took effect in the 2018 tax year. While the elimination does not affect a large number of tax payers, it has had a profound impact on individuals or families with very large medical expenditures. Without the deduction, the increased state tax liability can be in the thousands. A single person who spends their entire Social Security and pension/retirement income on medical care will have to pay Vermont income taxes on all their income except for the $7,000 standard deduction. The elimination of the medical deduction is expected to increase tax revenues by $3 to $4 million. That is $3 to$4 million that Vermonters would have had to cover their catastrophic expenses. Unfortunately, nothing can be done for the 2018 tax year.
H.439, which doubles the tax on heating fuels, is running in to trouble in the Senate. The additional tax revenue was to go toward weatherization (about 425 homes). H.439 was hotly debate and condemned by some (me included) as a regressive tax which would be borne disproportionately by low income people who likely have poorly insulated homes. It will be interesting to see what the Senate does.
Two controversial Senate bills currently being considered in House committees are S.23 and S.54. S.23 is the minimum wage bill. It proposes to raise the current minimum wage of $10.78 to $15.00 in 2024. S.54 deals with the regulation of cannabis, the current preferred term for marijuana. The 68 page bill sets forth regulations on the growing, marketing, sale and taxing of marijuana. Both promise to generate lengthy and intensive debates on the floor of the House.
On a sad note, the House lost one of its members last week. Robert Forguites represented the Windsor 3-2 District and lived in West Springfield. Bob and I were both freshmen in 2015. We became good friends and held similar views on a verity of issues.