Vermont Governor Phil Scott has made no secret of the fact that he will veto pending legislation this year.
In a recent letter to legislators he indicated that he will veto any legislative increase of Vermont’s minimum wage and, more irksome, he reiterated his intention to veto any education spending bills until the Legislature finds some way to legislate lower education spending.
That’s disingenuous and patently unfair to Vermont voters. At Town Meeting, voters in the state approved 96 percent of their budgets. And those budgets came in 40 percent lower than the governor’s target of keeping increases to less than 2.5 percent.
All over the state, school boards sharpened their pencils and pinched every penny to meet the governor’s proposal. It disrespects the will of the people – as evidenced by their approval of their town budgets – to insist on such a heavy-handed approach to cutting spending on education.
It is the crafters of those local budgets who best know the needs of their students, not the governor and certainly not the Legislature. Governor Scott got what he asked for on education spending this year, increases kept to 2.5 percent or less. It’s not right to come back for a second bite at this apple this year.
The governor also plans to veto a bill that funds a long-term, comprehensive plan to clean up Lake Champlain and the state’s lakes and rivers. Vermont has been ordered by the EPA to develop and implement this plan. It’s not optional. If the state doesn’t create a plan, the federal government could impose or mandate one that may not be a great fit for Vermont.
This is simply bad policy. Lake Carmi was closed for much of the summer last year because of blue-green algae blooms. Lake Champlain is regularly afflicted by such blooms and a recent UVM study linked those blooms to “legacy phosphorus” that has built up over the last century.
Governor Scott’s fiscal conservatism is to be respected. His desire to control education spending is admirable, but he already asked for and got what he wanted this year.
The water cleanup legislation is critically important to our health, environment and tourist economy. And it’s required by the EPA. It’s not optional.