Commentary: Legislative Preview for 2019 (November, 2018)

By John McClaughry

The Vermont Digger headline a day after the elections well captured the enthusiasm of the newly elected legislative majorities: “Democratic supermajority comes with sky-high expectations”.  The final House tally was 102 Democrats and Progressives, 43 Republicans, and five independents. The Senate will be 24-6. Both chambers now have the 2/3 majorities needed to override any veto by Republican Governor Phil Scott.

The Democrats’ will start with passing another $15 an hour minimum wage bill and a payroll-taxed financed parental leave bill, both of which Scott vetoed last session. But that’s just the unfinished business. With unrestrained legislative power in their hands, all of the issues that excite the liberal imagination will compete for a high rank on the “must pass” list.

Carbon Tax: This measure, first offered in 2014, is now disguised as carbon pricing, pollution fees, decarbonization, cap-and-trade, greenhouse gas initiative, etc. after the initial, straightforward “carbon tax” aroused massive resistance. The recent UN IPCC SR1.5 report, telling Americans that we have only a few years left before it will be too late to rescue the dying climate, will be weaponized to create a huge new tax resource for state government, but produce no detectable effect on climate.

Welfare increases: The $15 minimum wage will only benefit lower-wage workers who aren’t priced or automated out of their jobs. Much more compulsion will be needed to that assure everyone enjoys a “Livable Wage”. Mandating employers to pay it avoids making taxpayers pay it, but mandating that employers stay in Vermont could prove troublesome.

Act 250 Expansion: A stacked six-member legislative commission will report in January on how to strengthen Act 250 after fifty years. Likely recommendations: make Act 250 apply to the smaller developments not now covered, make every development satisfy regulators that it will have no net adverse effect on climate change, and mandate that almost all change occur in state-designated growth centers.

Health Care: High on the agenda will be forcing all individual Vermonters to buy state-approved health insurance, or suffer a financial penalty. The legislature will compliantly support moving forward with the UVM Medical Center-dominated “All Payer” mega-system as a way station toward reviving the single payer plan that collapsed in December 2014.

Energy: It’s likely that the legislature will put into state law Gov. Shumlin’s fiat that Vermont must obtain 90% of its total energy needs from renewable sources by 2050. This fiat, once actually enacted, will invite legislators to push through a lengthy list of mandates, prohibitions, regulations and taxes designed to drive up energy prices to benefit the Renewable Industrial Complex and its political friends.

Labor: The legislature may try to find some workaround to avoid complying with the Supreme Court’s holding that compelled “agency fees” to labor unions are blatantly unconstitutional.

Education: The legislature will cheerfully advance the centralization of control over public education spurred by Act 46, and try to choke off every path for parents and children to escape to independent (non-unionized) schooling. They’ll make universal pre-K programs mandatory, publicly controlled, and unionized, despite no evidence that U-Pre-K actually improves educational outcomes. They’ll move onward toward replacing the school homestead property tax with income taxes, with little consideration of the effects of much higher income tax rates on the economy.

Gun Control: Having breached the constitutional barrier in 2018, the gun control advocates will try to ban “assault rifles” and prohibit possession of firearms not just by persons judicially adjudged as “extreme risks” (current law), but also by persons subject to much less demanding  “relief of abuse” orders.

The new legislature will be faced with a deepening liability for state employee and teacher pension and health care benefit obligations, now totaling an astounding $4.5 billion. Failure to a least modestly reverse the trend will result in lowered bond ratings and higher cost of borrowing.

The 2018 legislative leadership recognized this problem and appropriated a one-time extra $36.2 million, but with supermajorities clamoring for immediate spending on pet programs, it’s hard to see how reducing the pension fund inadequacies can compete.

The new legislative majorities will be intoxicated with the declaration put into law in Gov. Shumlin’s 2012 budget bill that “Spending and revenue policies will reflect the public policy goals established in State law and recognize every person’s need for health, housing, dignified work, education, food, social security, and a healthy environment.”

That lofty purpose neglects a few other considerations, like a business friendly, job-creating economy, and most people’s need to keep the ever growing Nanny State off of their back and out of their wallets.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Roger Joslin November 28, 2018 at 6:38 pm


Unfortunately, I think your predictions are right. The consequences are the real problem. I see the largest exodus of citizens this state has ever seen.
The foreclosure rate will skyrocket due to the carbon tax and the housing market will plummet.
Employers will leave the state due to lack of employees, thus more people leaving.

The cost of living here will drive out so many poor elderly, it will be incredible. We will be dislocating people that have lived here all their lives and there roots are here.

This is just the beginning. I can’t believe the dems can’t see the ramifications of their actions. And if they think taking away Vermonters guns is going to work out well, they are in for a big surprise.


Carol D. December 3, 2018 at 3:01 pm

It just blows my mind that these supposedly educated men and women who are being elected to the Vermont legislature are incapable of seeing beyond Today. Vermont businesses are having a tough time surviving because, with the present tax and fees structure in Vermont, it is impossible for them to compete with the merchants just over the border in NH. If they have to pay $15/hr for totally unskilled labor, where does that put their profit margin? And how long will they stay in business? It was cheaper for me to shop in NH and gas up there despite the 70 mile round trip from where I lived in VT. They paint their campaign promises in lofty words and by the time the voter gets to the polls, they haven’t a clue as to what they are REALLY voting for and what it is going to cost them in the long run. “Propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated are confident they are acting on their own free will.” – Joseph Goebbels


Mark Donka December 3, 2018 at 5:06 pm

You have hit the nail on the head, unfortunately it is a nail in the VT Coffin. I find it hard to believe that VT will not suffer immensely from these spending sprees. I guess until it hurts enough they will continue to elect the liberal left. I believe people and businesses will continue leaving our state. We shall see what the future brings but it does look bleak..


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