Senate declares support for nonpartisan fiscal office

June 8, 2018

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Amid concerns the state’s political climate is beginning to resemble Washington, D.C., the Vermont Senate passed a resolution supporting the work of the office that provides the Legislature with nonpartisan fiscal analysis.

The resolution, which passed unanimously, was introduced in response to comments criticizing the Joint Fiscal Office made by Jason Gibbs, chief of staff to Republican Gov. Phil Scott.

“Jason Gibbs, the chief of staff for the governor, attacked the integrity of the Joint Fiscal Office and legislators of all parties in this building were horrified,” Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, a Democrat and Progressive, said Wednesday before the passage of the resolution.

The resolution states that the fiscal office has provided “trusted, nonpartisan analysis” on the costs and economic impact of bills and that the office works on an “independent and neutral basis.”

“With limited staff, JFO provides information to the Legislature in a totally fair and open way,” said Republican Sen. Richard Westman of Lamoille County.

Gibbs criticized the work of the fiscal office last month, questioning whether the office’s analysis of Scott’s proposal had mathematic backing. A report from the Joint Fiscal Office last month questioned the Scott’s education proposal and said savings would be smaller than the administration announced.

Gibbs said that the Legislature attempted to politicize by ignoring responses the Scott administration provided to the fiscal office.

“Though my statements were taken out of context, I hope that the good folks in the Joint Fiscal Office recognize that their work continues to be politicized by the Legislature’s own leadership,” Gibbs said Friday.

Scott apologized to the fiscal office last month, although Democratic leader said Gibbs criticized the office again after the apology.

The resolution also states that in Vermont political operatives have, until now, “resisted attempts to undermine the public confidence in nonpartisan staff.”

“Attacking the integrity of the Joint Fiscal Office or the legislative council is the kind of undermining of nonpartisan institutions we see in Washington,” said Ashe.

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