Roll Call Round-Up

A look at some of the key roll call votes from the past week

H.781– An act relating to making appropriations for the support of government. AKA “The Budget.” Passed 99-41. Only 6 Republicans voted for it, non of whom served on the Appropriations committee that reported the bill. One Democrat (Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington) and one Progressive (Chris Pearson, P-Burlington) joined the rest of the Republicans in opposing the bill.

Rep. Dickinson of St. Albans Town summed things up nicely in her vote explanation:

Mr. Speaker: The increases in the budgets during the past three years are: 2010 – 2011 6.9%, 2011 – 2012 6.1%, and 2012 – 2013 5.8%. Vermonters will have to absorb not only the increase of this year’s budget, but also the loss of ARRA funds we have had during the past few years. The loss of this almost $1 billion federal stimulus money will have to be made up by Vermont taxpayers. This is at the same time we have seen continuing decline in our revenues during the past six months. We have a very fragile economy and we need to consider this in our budget decisions.

H. 440 – An act relating to creating an agency and secretary of education and amending the membership and purpose of the state board of education passed the House 114 to 17. Two Republicans opposed the idea along with two Progressives and thirteen Democrats. If this bill enjoys similar bipartisan support in the Senate, it looks like it will become the law of the land.

H. 468 – An act relating to a renewable portfolio standard and the Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development Program. This bill, that virtually every business organization in Vermont vehemently opposed, passed the House 91 to 46.

Rep. Don Turner (R-Milton), Minority Leader, explained his vote:

H.468 has been advanced with the stated goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting the renewable energy sectors in Vermont’s economy. However, these otherwise laudable goals do not justify the costs entailed for Vermont employers and the economy as a whole. We believe that these goals can be achieved in a more cost effective manner.

Electricity costs, reliability, and quality are critical concerns for Vermont employers, especially high value employers who tend to be energy intensive. Average electric costs in Vermont for commercial and industrial customers have run 30% to 40% higher than the average in the other lower 48 states against which we compete for jobs, investment, and markets. Our rates are already increasing owing to factors including existing renewable energy mandates, the loss of Vermont Yankee power contracts, and looming regional reliability projects. Additional rate increases owing to new renewable energy mandates, particularly those that focus on smaller scale, less cost-effective and reliable generators, would exacerbate these increases. Vermont already has one of the cleanest electric portfolios in the country and more dependence on renewable energy than other states with an RPS are seeking to reach. Vermont utilities have pointed to existing regulatory requirements and market expectations to support the conclusion that Vermont’s dependence on renewable energy is unlikely to decline in any meaningful way going forward, even if no further renewable mandates are enacted. Passing H.468 commits Vermont to a twenty-year policy that would lock us into even higher electric rates with only a very modest impact on greenhouse gas emissions, which on balance is not in the best interest of Vermont companies and working Vermonters and their families. Vermont can better promote our renewable energy sector through other economic development policies that could in fact benefit Vermont companies more broadly and we can have a more cost-effective impact on our greenhouse gas emissions by looking to sources outside our electric portfolio.

H. 769 – An act relating to department of environmental conservation fees passed 86 to 47.

S. 238 – An act relating to establishing the Vermont farm guest worker program passed the Senate 26-0.