Pat McDonald and Ben Kinsley are co-hosts of the show “Vote for Vermont.” On a recent show they spent time interviewing their guest Jill Krowinski, the leader of the House Democratic Party. Jill was on the show in February and provided a list of Democratic priorities for the 2017-18 legislative session. The priorities were: “Strong Healthy Vermont, Clean Water, Affordable Child Care and Housing, Minimum Wage and Economic Growth.”
In discussing her background, Jill explained her deep interest in getting woman involved in the legislative process. Apparently Vermont is No. 1 with the number of women in leadership roles, which is very encouraging to Jill. She noted the importance of having a woman in the Speaker’s position sets a very positive tone for women in leadership.
To delve into the show’s agenda of looking back at the 2017 session, Jill was asked “How did you do this year in meeting your priorities? Jill responded that they did very well and their efforts have established a solid basis for a strong future for Vermont. Jill noted they did a lot with regard to water and housing. Affordable housing is necessary to attract potential workers from outside the state and to support the vitalization of Vermont’s economy. Other areas where progress was made was in the passage of the economic development bill, reauthorization of TIF (tax incremental financing) districts, and support of workforce development. Jill noted that the economic development bill created an easy access to a retirement plan for small businesses who find it to cost prohibitive to offer to their employees. Many pieces of these proposals were tied to the budget, which is why Jill and others were concerned about the fate of the budget should the Governor follow through on his veto.
Jill voiced her disappointment that the Governor said he would veto the budget especially since the budget passed with only one dissenting vote and met his criteria of no new taxes and no new fees. At one point the Governor even said he would vote “yes” for the budget and yield bill. The budget gave more money to mental health, housing, child care and support for low income people. There was also property tax relief in the yield bill.
Jill said legislative leadership was working hard to encourage a face to face meeting with the Governor to come to the table and work on a compromise instead of emails and telephone calls. Jill felt that big policy changes should not be negotiated in a veto session but should be done with thoughtful and open dialogue. Jill warned that if a budget isn’t passed there will be a $410M hole in the education fund.
Jill did state support for the Governor’s stance on immigration. Jill lives in the North End of Burlington and talked about the number of calls she received from worried family and friends who might not be able to remain here. She said it was a difficult and emotional time.
Jill also talked about the marijuana bill and explained that the Senate wanted a tax and regulate bill while the House wanted to pursue an incremental approach. When the Governor stated he hadn’t had enough time to review the bill, Jill expressed her disappointment that the Governor hadn’t come to the table because she was sure they could have reached an agreement.
Jill talked about her support for the Ethics bill which passed this session after many years of discussion. The bill provides for accountability and transparency and creates a commission to hear complaints. Jill agreed with Ben that this bill is only the first step and that next year a review should happen with recommended adjustments as deemed necessary. Of some concern was the lack of authority that the commission has.
Jill noted that one-third of the State’s budget comes from the Federal government. There is concern about the extreme consequences to Vermont relative to the national budget and potential reduction in funds in health care and the elimination of funding for Planned Parenthood. In addition to the veto session schedule for July, another special session has been called for October to address any shortfall in Federal funding. Jill is hoping for support from our Congressional delegation and support from Governor Phil Scott.
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