House and Senate Conflict on Major Spending Initiatives, Budget Poised for Veto

The Senate has passed its version of the $8.5 billion state budget. A conference committee of House and Senate appropriation members will now be appointed to hash out an agreement on major spending proposals in H.494, including childcare and paid family and medical leave. The Senate’s budget does not include the money required to cover the paid family and medical leave plan passed by the House. Instead, the Senate earmarked enough funding for a parental leave benefit that they folded into their childcare bill to the tune of $7.6 million the first year and $15.7 million the next. In contrast, the House proposal for a comprehensive paid leave program would cost $37 million to start and $100 million annually.  

The conference committee will ultimately have to come to an agreement before passing the bill on to the Governor, who has repeatedly expressed concern that the budget does not reflect the needs of Vermont. A statement released by the Governor shortly after the Senate vote read, “Growing the base General Fund budget by over 13 percent could set us up for severe fiscal challenges in future years. The Legislature’s own economist predicts a possible decline in revenue for next year (FY24), which could lead to severe future cuts to the very programs this budget supports.” Notably, the Governor’s administration already has the launch of a voluntary paid leave program underway.