Governor Scott called the legislature back for a special legislative session on May 23. In a special session, all bills under consideration are new bills with new numbers – although their content is from the regular session. The governor’s objective is to eliminate the need for property tax rate increases in the next fiscal year. Addressing the constant increase in education property taxes was an issue that he – and most legislators – campaigned on two years ago.
The House Ways and Means Committee has the only bill that must move in order to, in the words of the committee chair, “get us out of this fix.” That bill, H.4, was introduced yesterday along with ten others. (See below.)
H.4 is the same bill as H.911, which was passed at the end of the regular session and is expected to be vetoed by the governor. H.4 will be amended to address any areas of agreement that might be achieved between the legislature and the administration before the start of the next fiscal year, July 1. But while H.911 dictated a new property tax billing framework for the next fiscal year (July 1), there seems to be consensus among lawmakers that any such changes need to be delayed for a year as making those changes in bills that need to be ordered, completed and sent out in the next month is untenable.
The committee’s consideration of the bill began after one and one half days of testimony and presentations from the administration. The Joint Fiscal Office developed a list of equalized homestead education property tax rates under the provisions of H.911 as passed and pursuant to the governor’s proposal. (Click here to read that document.)
As noted in the governor’s letter to House and Senate leadership on May 22, the administration expects their plan would do the following:
- “Achieve gross savings over five years of over $450 million if all the components of the plan are passed as outlined.
- “Special Education Census Model: changes to the method by which we deliver special education services in Vermont as passed in H.897;
- “Staff-to-Student Ratios: savings through natural attrition (vacancies and retirements) by filling only four of five of those expected to occur over the next five years aided by the work and recommendations of a student-to-staff ratios task force contained in Section l7 of H.911 (Note: one stated goal of Act 46 is improved ratios);
- “Statewide school employee health care benefit: a statewide school employee health care contract-if this cannot be achieved so all stakeholders agree this special session, the benefit should be put in session law for two years providing time for a viable plan supported by all the stakeholders to be achieved in the next Biennium; and
- “Properly Tax Adjustments: decrease the maximum house site value from $500,000 to $400,000 (H.911, Section 14); reform the property tax adjustment calculation for new homesteads after July l, 2018; lower the excess spending threshold gradually from 121 percent to 110 percent over the next five years.
The entirety of the governor’s letter is posted on his website.
All of the following bills were close to passage at the end of the regular 2018 legislative session:
- H.1. Regarding sexual exploitation of a person in law enforcement officer custody. To Judiciary
- H.2. Bill making revenue changes. To Ways and Means
- H.3. Restorative justice principles in school discipline, sexual exploitation of a person in law enforcement officer’s custody, criminal threatening. To Judiciary
- H.4. Changes in Vermont’s personal income tax and education financing system. To Ways and Means
- H.5. Protecting working forests and habitat. To Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife.
- H.6. Notice regarding child placement. To Judiciary
- H.7. Creating the Department of Liquor and Lottery, Board of Liquor and Lottery. To General Housing and Military Affairs.
- H.8. Act relating to boards and commissions. To Government Operations
- H.9. Fair repair of consumer electronic devices
- H.10. Transportation network companies.
- H.11. Relief from abuse orders.