Daily Archives: May 13, 2023

Objects In Mirror May Be Larger, Or Smaller, Than They Appear

Speaking in purely political terms, last night’s House vote on the FY2024 budget was a truly remarkable thing. The Democratic majority lost a stunning 17 votes from its own Dem/Progressive caucus and came ten votes short of the two-thirds margin needed to override a likely gubernatorial veto.

Those 17 objected to the budget’s lack of funding for the motel voucher program that currently shelters 80% of Vermont’s homeless, and they stood firm under what I’m sure was heavy pressure from caucus leadership. It’s especially noteworthy that so many of the dissidents were new to the Golden Dome. Eight of the 17 are in their first term in office. They’ve only just entered the kingdom and now they’ve pissed off the royal guard.

Breaking down the tally, 90 voted yes, 53 no, six were absent, and the House Speaker doesn’t vote unless needed. Four of the six absentees were Democrats likely to support the caucus (Brownell, Masland, O’Brien, Pearl), and two were Republicans almost certain to vote “No” (Graham, Wilson). That brings us to a hypothetical count of 94 in favor and 55 against, with Krowinski waiting in the wings. If my math is correct, the majority would have to swing five votes to win an override (with Krowinski casting the 100th vote). That’s assuming every single representative is present and voting and that no vacancies will have occurred in the House between now and the override session in late June.

The outcome of the vote means that caucus leadership will either have to negotiate with the dissidents on a budget amendment or convince at least five to rejoin the Dark Side.

That’s the good news, and it’s far from inconsequential. The bad news? More than 800 households will be evicted from their motel rooms at the end of this month. Nothing can change that now, barring a divine or gubernatorial intervention. Phase One of a preventable humanitarian crisis is definitely going to happen.

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This Is Not the End (UPDATED)

The House and Senate steamed ahead with their motel voucher-free budget, but they fell critically short at the very last hurdle. Thanks to a group of Democrats and Progressives unwilling to evict thousands of Vermonters because “it’s time” or “we just couldn’t find the money,” the House came short of the margin needed to override a gubernatorial veto.

The final tally: 90 votes for the budget, 53 against. House leadership will have to persuade at least three members to abandon their principled stand in order to win an override vote. And Gov. Phil Scott appears bound and determined to deliver a veto.

Update! The official roll call shows that 17 Democratic/Progressive lawmakers voted “No” on the budget. That means leadership will have to flip at least six votes to override a veto, not three. Working on a fresh post about this.

So what happens now? The Legislature is adjourned until June 20, when a three-day override session is scheduled. If Scott does veto the budget, leadership will face a choice: Convince three or more dissidents to join the Dark Side, or craft a compromise on housing that will meet their demands. Looming ahead of it all: The requirement that the state must have a budget in place when the new fiscal year begins on July 1.

One big fly in the ointment: Nearly half of the 1,800 households in the motel voucher program will have already been evicted by then. The program’s eligibility standards tighten at the end of this month, so a last-ditch fight to save the program will come too late for more than 1,000 people facing unsheltered homelessness in less than three weeks.

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