Daily Archives: May 10, 2023

Proton Torpedo Deployed (CORRECTED and UPDATED)

Hey, remember that group of six lawmakers who said they wouldn’t support a veto override on any FY24 budget that didn’t provide funding for the motel voucher program and a transition to more permanent housing?

Well, their number has grown to 32, which is far more than enough to doom any override vote. And they seem determined. In a memo released today, they laid out the parameters of an acceptable plan, and it’s a solid piece of work.

CORRECTION. 32, now 33, have signed on to the memo. All agree on the plan, but most have NOT promised to block a veto override. This will all depend on what comes out of budget negotiations.

Their plan would include a $32 million appropriation to keep the voucher program going, mandate a transition plan to move people steadily from motels to longer-term housing, instruct the Scott administration to negotiate lower rates for the vouchers (something they should have done long ago), expand the list of “vulnerable populations” eligible for vouchers, and expand the Adverse Weather Conditions policy beyond wintertime to include late fall and early spring.

UPDATE. The House-Senate conference committee has reaffirmed its commitment to end the voucher program in a quick and discussion-free session. It was condescension at its finest. What’s worse is just as this was happening, I got a fundraising text from the Vermont Democratic Party asking me to help them fight “Phil Scott and extremist Republicans.” Well, I’m sorry, but on the voucher issue, the Democrats are not one whit better than the governor. In fact, the committee made it clear that they’d worked with the administration — not with housing advocates — on finalizing its housing budget plan. So remind me again, if I give to the VDP, what exactly can I expect to get?

The memo is attached below. In addition to the 30 signatories, Reps. Noah Lyman and Peter Anthony are also on board. The budget conference committee is meeting this afternoon and is likely to consider its own housing plan. We’ll see whether it fulfills the conditions laid out by the Rebel Alliance.

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Blessed Are the Policymakers, For They Shall Be Insulated From the Consequences of Their Inaction

As the Legislature steams toward adjournment in, what, 48 hours from now?, efforts continue to find a way of solving the homelessness crisis staring us in the face. Or at least a face-saving way of putting a Band-Aid on that brain tumor.

There may have been an outcome by the time you read this. The House-Senate conference committee on the FY2024 budget has held multiple meetings this week. Each time they’ve skipped over the housing issue; at the close of yesterday’s meeting, Senate Appropriations chair Jane Kitchel alluded to negotiations on an unspecified issue holding up the completion of the compromise budget. One has to assume she’s talking about housing. It’s the only issue that’s sparked a last-ditch revolt by lawmakers who’d rather not be responsible for mass evictions from the motel voucher program. At least, they’d rather not be perceived as responsible.

But no matter which way this goes, it’s already a policymaking failure of epic proportions. We’re approaching mid-May. Eligibility standards for the voucher program will tighten in three weeks, and the program will virtually disappear one month after that. Decisions should have been made long ago. If the budget includes reasonable funding for vouchers, there will be a mad scramble to implement the extension. If it doesn’t, well, it’s all hands on deck, five alarm fire, Defcon One, and the little dog saying “It’s Fine” in the middle of a conflagration.

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