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Vermont Legislators Approve 14 Percent Property Tax Increase, Overriding Governor

Gov. Phil Scott argued that residents need tax cuts, not an increase. Legislators felt they had to act to address increased school spending.

The Vermont Legislature on Monday overrode Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of the annual property tax legislation that funds the state’s public school districts, solidifying an average projected property tax increase of 13.8%.

The override attempts passed 103-42 in the House and 22-7 in the Senate, securing the required two-thirds majorities in both chambers.

Earlier this month, Scott vetoed the so-called yield bill, telling lawmakers that the state needs “property tax relief now.”

This year’s historic increase in property taxes is driven by increased school spending of roughly $180 million. Health care costs, student mental health needs, ailing infrastructure and inflation contributed to the surge.

Last week, officials from Scott’s administration met with legislative leaders to discuss the executive branch’s proposal for an alternative yield bill. That menu of ideas involved injecting $124 million of tax relief through ideas ranging from using revenue surplus, nixing universal school meals, and drawing on the entirety of the state’s $47 million education fund reserve.

Lawmakers derided Scott’s proposal, characterizing it as fiscally irresponsible.

The yield bill, a must-pass piece of legislation, already includes about $70 million of one-time funds to offset this year’s tax increase and levies new, ongoing taxes on remotely-accessed software and short term rentals, projected to raise about $27 million next year.

The bill also uses about $20 million to offset the rise in taxes for property owners who pay based on income, a group Democratic leaders have suggested will struggle the most to pay the increase.

“We are in a difficult moment — a moment with no perfect path forward,” Rep. Emilie Kornheiser, D-Brattleboro, said on the House floor Monday before the vote, speaking in support of the override.

But House Minority Leader Rep. Pattie McCoy, R-Poultney, said that the legislation, by adding new taxes, “continues to feed the beast.”

She chastised her colleagues for once again studying potential education policy changes, saying the Legislature has enacted 38 education studies since 2000.

This year’s yield bill charges a study committee with proposing cost-saving ideas later this year, set to be taken up by lawmakers in January.

In the Senate, the bill passed along party lines.

“Not a single member of the Legislature would choose to raise property taxes if it could be avoided,” Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Baruth, D/P-Chittenden Central, said in a statement. “But our local districts have sent us the bill that reflects all of the rising costs they face – and pretending that bill doesn’t exist, or putting it on the credit card, won’t help any of us.”

This article originally appeared on VT Digger. Read the original here.


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