Smith Says Lawmakers Need to Scale Back Spending

Shap

House Speaker Shap Smith talks to reporters at the Statehouse on Monday.

VPR Staff

House Speaker Shap Smith says a tight state budget means lawmakers will have to scale back Gov. Peter Shumlin’s spending priorities.

The governor wants to increase child care subsidies by using $17 million now spent on a tax credit for working Vermonters. Smith says that idea lacks support in the House.

And the Speaker says other spending proposals, such as a new thermal energy efficiency program, will have to be reduced to reflect budget realities.

We are not going to be able make the same investments that the governor has proposed,” Smith explained Monday. “That’s not because we disagree with the governor. I think we share the goals that he has. We just have a different view of the budget eight weeks after he proposed it.”

Smith’s priorities for the next few weeks include an equal pay for equal work bill that would end wage disparities for women, and a transportation bill that would fund repairs to roads and bridges. Smith told lawmakers Tuesday morning that they will take up that bill, which would phase in about $26 million in new gas tax revenues over two years, on Wednesday.

All this week, the House Ways and Means Committee is exploring ways to raise additional revenues, including an income tax.

On a voice vote Tuesday, the House passed a bill that would require out-of-state companies that offer health coverage to the spouses of opposite-sex married couples to provide the same benefits to same-sex couples.

The full senate is expected to debate later this week a controversial bill that would subject renewable energy projects to more regulation. Most mainstream environmental groups oppose the legislation, saying it presents unnecessary hurdles to clean energy projects.

On Wednesday, the Senate Transportation Committee will vote on legislation that would make migrant workers eligible for special licenses to drive a vehicle. As the country continues to debate broad issues surrounding undocumented immigrants, the panel is widely expected to approve the legislation. Some skeptics, however, are worried about preserving the integrity of Vermont’s license as a form of identification.

Listen to VPR’s Ross Sneyd talk with Vermont Edition about the “crossover deadline” in the Vermont Legislature here.