REP. BOB BANCROFT
It was a very quiet week on the House floor with the exception of the governor’s budget address.
The budget proposed by Gov. Scott is 4 percent higher than last year. The budget is based on a $73 million increase in revenues. (This increase is due to two factors: economic growth and the new federal tax law, which incentivized businesses to repatriate profits held in foreign countries.) His budget proposes to increase fees by $8 million, the majority of it coming from brokers, dealers and mortgage agents. He is recommending a $7 million tax on online hotel reservations, which are not taxed now. He is calling for an increase in the tax on e-cigarettes and is proposing to increase the estate tax exemption over a five-year period in the hopes of keeping more wealthy individuals from moving out.
The governor’s budget address contained several initiatives. They included increased child care subsidies ($7M), purchase of electric cars ($1.5M) and fully funding the state clean water initiative ($28M state, $19M federal).
As in his inaugural address, Gov. Scott repeated the need to grow Vermont’s economy and expand its workforce. He emphasized that without an expanded workforce, the state is not going to be able to fund its current programs.
One of the most interesting bills introduced last week was S.11, which proposes to limit senatorial districts to a maximum of three members beginning at the 2022 general election. If this bill becomes law, the Chittenden County senatorial district, which has six elected members, would be broken up into smaller districts. I am very much in favor of this bill.
The Commerce & Economic Development Committee, on which I sit, continued with its orientation. We heard from a variety of state agencies and interest groups. The Dept. of Fish & Wildlife talked about how much it contributes to Vermont’s economy. We got a primer of the importance of the captive insurance business in Vermont. The captive insurance business in Vermont has become the gold standard in the industry and is the third largest in the world (largest in U.S.). Several organizations involved in economic development spoke. The major theme was workforce development and workforce housing. Our committee along with the Agricultural & Forestry Committee held a joint hearing on the emerging hemp industry. It was exciting to hear from several entrepreneurs in this industry. There is every indication that it will continue to grow and create a significant number of jobs.
The most significant item on next week’s agenda is the FY2019 Budget Adjustment Act. The BAA reconciles the FY2019 budget passed last spring with changes in revenues and various program expenditures. For the first time in the five years I have been in the legislature, tax revenues are exceeding expenditures due to the unusual increase in tax revenue.