Vermont GOP governor to address goals amid Democrat control

January 8, 2019

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont lawmakers are going to be back in Montpelier Wednesday for the opening of the 2019 session of the Legislature that will bring with it a new balance of power between the state’s Republican governor and the Democratically controlled House and Senate, which have at least the theoretical ability to override any vetoes the governor might issue.

The official opening of the 2019 session is Wednesday, but most of the activities the first day will focus on lawmakers’ administrative chores. On Thursday, Gov. Phil Scott and other statewide officers will be sworn into office and then Scott will give his inaugural address to a joint session of the House and Senate.

Many lawmakers were frustrated last year when Scott, whose party then had enough members in the House to ensure his vetoes were upheld, vetoed a number of pieces of legislation that were favored by many lawmakers, including establishing a $15 minimum wage and a paid family leave bill.

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, a Democrat and Progressive from Burlington, said many of the bills vetoed by the governor last year were passed with broad multi-party support and he hoped the governor and the Legislature could work together this year with a “spirit of compromise.”

“Had it not been for the governor’s vetoes it might have been one of the most forwarding-looking legislative agendas in modern Vermont history,” Ashe said. “So I think we approach this year as it relates to Governor Scott and his administration as the opportunity to hit a reset button.”

Scott’s spokeswoman Rebecca Kelley said Tuesday the governor would outline his goals for the session during his address on Thursday. But in general terms she said he would continue to push for the things he considers most important, helping ensure Vermont is affordable for everyone and the state economy continues to grow. He’s also expected to discuss more ways to bring new residents to the state.

While the governor’s core beliefs remain, she said the governor recognizes the political dynamic at the Statehouse has changed.

“Voters want balance,” she said. “They voted for a Republican governor and they voted for a Democratic majority.”

Kelley said the governor would be open to working closely with the Legislature, but his basic beliefs remain. She said he believes a $15 minimum wage would ultimately end up hurting Vermonters, especially those in rural areas. She said the governor could favor a paid family leave bill if it were voluntarily.

“The governor has acknowledged there is a different dynamic,” Kelley said. “He is looking at a clean slate for this session and building stronger relationships with the Legislature.”

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