Scott Vetoes Property Tax Hike; Expects to Present Reform Idea to Lawmakers

In a move that was expected by the residents of Montpelier, Republican Gov. Phil Scott has vetoed legislation on Thursday that would lead to an average statewide education property tax increase of almost 14% next year.

Shortly after Democratic lawmakers presented the “yield bill” to Scott’s desk, the governor promptly sent it back with a veto message consisting of four paragraphs, in which he expressed his concerns with the Legislature’s plan.

“Vermonters are facing a significant challenge with the prospect of a property tax increase in the double digits,” Scott expressed. “Immediate action is needed to address the issue of property tax relief.”

Scott criticized lawmakers throughout the legislative session for what he saw as their lack of action on property tax increases, which he believes could seriously harm the financial well-being of working Vermonters.

According to Democrats in the House and Senate, the projected 13.8% average increase under their bill is a notable improvement compared to the initial forecast of an 18.5% hike made by analysts in December. In a move reminiscent of a news report, lawmakers successfully lowered those rates by directing surplus funds towards the education fund. Additionally, they implemented tax increases on short-term rentals and specific types of software.

“There are very few ways to lower property taxes when we have local voters making local decisions about local school budgets. And that is how Vermont’s education finance system works.” – Rep. Emilie Kornheiser

According to Brattleboro Rep. Emilie Kornheiser, the Democratic chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, the final legislation is being hailed as the most optimal bill that the Legislature could have created given the circumstances.

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“It is challenging to reduce property taxes when local voters have the authority to make decisions about local school budgets,” Kornheiser stated. “This is an explanation of how Vermont’s education finance system operates.”

House Speaker Jill Krowinski announced in a written statement on Thursday that the legislation aims to create a commission that will pave the way for further spending reforms in the upcoming legislative biennium.

“The yield bill reflects a cooperative and progressive approach to tackling the present and future requirements of our education system, as well as the challenges of affordability that many Vermonters are facing,” Krowinski stated. “The establishment of this commission provides an opportunity for Vermonters to actively participate in shaping the future of our education system. It empowers them to offer valuable insights, propose a comprehensive statewide vision, and ultimately drive legislative initiatives that will benefit our children, teachers, and taxpayers in Vermont.”

Scott, on the other hand, emphasized the urgent need for relief among property owners. In a recent address, he called on lawmakers to collaborate with his administration before their June 17 veto session to develop a more comprehensive reform package.

“This is urgent and requires immediate action,” he emphasized in his veto message. “It is crucial to implement reforms in our education funding formula to ensure responsible spending growth and equal opportunities. We should prioritize funding educational initiatives that enhance outcomes by reinvesting in strategies that effectively serve students, rather than simply maintaining the current state of affairs.”


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