Gov. Phil Scott Vetoes Paid Leave Bill
Gov. Phil Scott has vetoed legislation that would have created a paid family and medical leave program for workers across Vermont, but Democratic lawmakers say they'll attempt to override the Republican governor as soon as next week.
In a written statement Friday, Scott said he vetoed the Legislature’s bill because it relies on a $29 million payroll tax to fund the mandatory paid leave program. He also said he was concerned the bill didn’t take into account all costs necessary to administer a new state benefit.
"H. 107 creates a cumbersome bureaucracy with the potential for long-term administrative issues and costs for the Departments of Tax (Tax), Labor (VDOL) and Financial Regulation (DFR) — and the program as a whole," Scott said.
"H. 107 creates a cumbersome bureaucracy with the potential for long-term administrative issues and costs ... " — Gov. Phil Scott
He added that Vermonters will still have access to paid leave benefits despite his veto: He’s already pursuing a voluntary program in which all workers in the state will be eligible to participate.
“I share the goal to provide a program that allows workers time to take care of family and personal health needs, and to bond with new children,” Scott said.
In December, the governor signed a two-year contract with the Vermont State Employees Association that will provide a paid leave benefit for 8,500 state workers. Administration officials have said they’ll work with prospective insurers to make sure businesses and individual employees who aren’t affiliated with state government can purchase the same paid leave benefits.
More from VPR: Scott Seizes Opening For Voluntary Paid Family Leave Program [Dec. 12, 2019]
Scott said Thursday that he’s already requested proposals from insurance companies who may be interested in administering the paid leave program.
House Speaker Mitzi Johnson said Friday that a voluntary plan likely won’t work for most Vermonters. She noted that lawmakers heard from industry experts who said voluntary programs generally attract people with a high likelihood of using the paid leave benefit in the next year.
Johnson said this “self-selecting” risk pool means that premiums could be cost-prohibitive for many workers.
“The governor hasn’t put forward a plan that actually looks as the details of how much this program would cost Vermonters, what the rate would be for Vermonters who want to buy into a voluntary program,” she said.
"The governor hasn't put forward a plan that actually looks as the details of how much this program would cost Vermonters, what the rate would be for Vermonters who want to buy into a voluntary program." — House Speaker Mitzi Johnson
Administration officials have said that based on preliminary conversations with prospective insurers, premiums for the voluntary paid leave program would cost about $260 a year.
Lawmakers will try to override the governor’s veto next week, according to Johnson. While Senate lawmakers appear to have the votes needed to override, the path to a supermajority is bumpier in the House of Representatives.
Based on the results of a vote in the House last week, Democratic leaders will need to turn at least eight votes in order to succeed with their override attempt.
Asked Friday whether she has those votes, Johnson said, “We’ll see.”
“I’m having very good conversations with people,” Johnson said. “And we’ll see next week.”