What's Happening Under the Golden Dome?

Posted on 3/29/2018 by Fred Kenney

Now that we are past Town Meeting and the legislative cross-over date (the day bills pass from one body to the other), it’s a good time to review what the General Assembly is up to that might impact your business. Below is a summary of some of the issues. ACEDC weighs in on issues impacting our region, especially on legislation that positively or adversely impacts business. But it is very important that legislators hear directly from business owners. Please let your legislators know your opinion. For legislator contact info, click here to go to the ACEDC website.

Click on the bill numbers below for a link to the bill text, status, and other information on the Vermont Legislature website.

S.40: Minimum Wage. This bill has passed the Senate, is under consideration by the House, and is expected to pass. The bill: 1) Increases the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2024; 2) Keeps the tipped minimum wage tied to 50% of the standard minimum wage; and 3) After 2024, indexes the minimum wage to inflation. ACEDC has joined all 12 of Vermont’s regional development corporations to ask the House to thoroughly examine the impact of this legislation on small businesses, youth employment, employer-provided benefits, and existing economic development tools.

H.911: Changes to Income and Education Property Taxes. Bill has passed the House and is in Senate Finance Committee. The bill: 1) Rewrites Vermont income tax code to assimilate changes to the federal tax code; 2) Collapses the top two income tax brackets, dropping the rate by 0.2% for those brackets; and 3) Shifts some education funding form the statewide education property tax to the income tax through an income tax surcharge; 4) Eliminates the Vermont tax on Social Security. Non-Homestead property tax rates (the rate most businesses pay on their property) stay the same. But, the income tax surcharge impacts non-residents, including those who own or invest in Vermont businesses and non-resident employees of Vermont businesses. The bill could have a chilling effect on investment and business growth, particularly for pass-through entities like partnerships, LLCs, and S-Corporation. The bill also does not contain any cost containment measures. ACEDC is opposing the bill in its current form.

S.197: Strict Liability for Toxic Releases. The bill establishes strict joint and severable liability for property damage and impact to human health due to the release of a hazardous substance and creates a private right of action to recover costs of medical monitoring. ACEDC believes more should be done to protect the public from hazardous substance releases. But this bill is fundamentally flawed and unbalanced. It could significantly increase operational risks and costs for a wide range of Vermont employers without providing a substantial and warranted public benefit.  ACEDC has signed a letter asking legislators to vote against this bill.

H.196: Paid Family Leave. Bill has passed the House and is in Senate Economic Development Committee. The bill provides up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for employers with ten or more employees working 30 or more hours per week. Leave would be paid for through a state insurance program funded by a 0.14 percent payroll tax paid by employees.

H. 767: ThinkVermont Innovation Initiative. Passed the House and is in Senate Economic Development. Funding is included in House budget (H.924). Allocates $400,000 in flexible funding for economic development initiatives. ACEDC supports this bill.

H.919: Workforce Development. Passed House; in Senate Economic Development Committee. Provides a process to improve and streamline workforce development initiatives. ACEDC supports this bill. 

S.85: Simplifying Government for Small Business. Passed Senate; in House. Requires several state agencies to make recommendations to establish a one-stop portal for small business interaction with State government. ACEDC supports this bill. 

S. 276: Rural Economic Development. Passed the Senate; in House. Makes changes to the Rural Economic Development initiative and the outdoor recreation council; exempts trails from Act 250 and makes sawmill a minor application to Act 250; establishes energy savings accounts, changes Vermont law regarding Hemp, establishes a tax credit for wood boilers, and asks for recommendations from the administration on the development of rural industrial parks. ACEDC supports this bill. There are other provisions having to do with fee abatements in rural areas that were removed from this Bill by the Senate, which we hope to see included in another bill.