On May 29, 2024
State News

Gov. Scott signs budget, vetoes renewable energy standard bill

On Thursday, May 23, Governor Phil Scott, as expected, signed the budget bill into law H.833, while vetoing H.289, An Act Relating to the Renewable Energy Standard. 

Scott has long voiced his opposition to the renewable energy bill because of the cost and complexity in how the law could be carried out and the ultimate cost to consumers. Meanwhile, the governor and lawmakers found enough middle ground on the budget  for him to sign it into law. 

For the bills he has vetoed, the Legislature will hold a “veto session” on June 17. For the renewable bill, H.289, the vote will be close as to whether his veto will be overridden in both chambers. 

H.883, the budget bill

When signing H.883, the budget bill, Governor Scott said the following letter to the General Assembly:

“The work on this budget in particular, shows that when we work together — and both sides are willing to give a little — we can craft a budget that meets the needs of Vermonters without adding to their tax burden.

“This budget makes critical investments in the priority areas I outlined in my budget proposal… This includes long-term housing, economic development, public safety and help for our vulnerable populations. Importantly, it does not rely on new or higher taxes, achieving balance without adding to the significant tax load Vermonters already carry.

“Compromise, however, means accepting some things that I don’t support. In this budget, that includes some fee increases, which I continue to believe are unnecessary and … I also remain concerned about the substantial increase in base spending, which may not be sustainable under a more modest — and typical — revenue environment. For example, H.883 creates 43 permanent positions and another 35 limited-service positions. These are on top of the 70 permanent positions and 32 limited-service positions created in last year’s budget.

“This budget is also overly reliant on one-time and contingent funding. It uses anticipated contingent surplus, ARPA reversions, and special fund transfers to support important programs that will create unsustainable expectations if further one-time funds are unavailable. By not making difficult choices this year and focusing scarce resources on programs we can’t sustain, we are setting up a very challenging budget development in FY26.

Despite these concerns, I’m returning H.883 with my signature because, on balance, this budget does more good than harm. Vermonters have elected and reelected me, in part, to provide fiscal responsibility in Montpelier. I urge the Legislature to work with me next year to accomplish our shared goals while living within our means.”

H.289, the revised renewable energy standard

On May 23, Governor Scott vetoed H.289, an act relating to the Renewable Energy Standard. 

He wrote the following in a letter to the General Assembly: 

“I don’t believe there is any debate that H.289 will raise Vermonters’ utility rates, likely by hundreds of millions of dollars. And while that in itself is reason enough to earn a veto, it is even more frustrating when you consider our Department of Public Service proposed to the Legislature a much stronger plan at a fraction of the cost.

“Their proposal was crafted after 18 months of engagement with Vermonters about what they want their energy policy to look like. It would get us to where we all want to go faster, more affordably and more equitably than H.289.

“For the reasons stated above, and factoring in all the other taxes, fees and higher costs the Legislature has passed over the last two years, I simply cannot allow this bill to go into law.

With a better alternative to this bill available, I sincerely hope that the Legislature will think about Vermonters and the cost of living, and sustain this veto.”

Leaders react to veto

President pro tem Phil Baruth issued the following statement: “Unfortunately, Governor Scott and his party are an automatic ‘no’ on any policy that will move the needle on fossil fuel dependence. Each session, we present carefully crafted legislation to reduce Vermont’s carbon output and protect lower-income Vermonters in the process; Governor Scott and his allies then do their best to scuttle the bill. It’s a shameful dynamic, especially in a world where our state capital still lacks a functioning U.S. post office due to persistent, climate-related flooding.

“H.289 would put Vermont on track to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2035, dramatically reducing planet-warming carbon pollution and saving Vermonters real money over time. Governor Scott has decided to kill this bill, offering nothing in its place. But as last year’s childcare bill proved, even when the Governor says no, the people can still say yes.”

Baruth was referencing the Legislature’s override of the childcare bill in 2023.

House Speaker Jill Krowinski and Rep. Amy Sheldon addressed the action taken by Governor Scott to veto bill H.289, the updated Renewable Energy Standard Act. The legislation accelerates Vermont’s transition to 100% renewable energy while supporting expanded in-state and regional renewables, ensuring price stability and affordability for utilities and ratepayers, and implementing safeguards against double-counting of renewable energy credits. The bill is a result of collaborative efforts with Vermonters, utilities, energy developers, environmentalists, housing advocates and legislators. 

“Having a vision through the Global Warming Solutions Act and a Plan through the Climate Action Plan and taking action to implement the plan is the leadership that Vermonters expect from us to address climate change,” said Rep. Amy Sheldon, chair of the House Environment and Energy Committee. “Accelerating the pace of cleaning up the electric grid is key to cutting carbon emissions and slowing climate change. Moving to 100% renewable energy for most Vermonters by 2030 while meeting the needs of our diverse utilities is a hallmark of H.289 and represents the hard work of many stakeholders.”

“Today’s veto undermines Vermont’s commitment to a sustainable future,” said Vermont Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski. “Our collective efforts in crafting H.289 epitomize the collaboration needed to combat climate change. We must remain steadfast in our resolve to accelerate renewable energy adoption, ensuring a resilient and cleaner future for generations to come. As Speaker of the House, I am committed to ensuring that the will of the people and the urgency of addressing climate change are not derailed, and we will be addressing this bill in our veto override session in June.”

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