Innkeepers are a busy bunch. To save you time, VLA attends Governor Scott’s Covid-19 press conferences and takes notes for you. Below is the summary from 2/22/22.
Governor Scott and Secretary of Administration Kristin Clouser spent much of the press conference arguing for changes to the Budget Adjustment Act, currently in a committee of conference. Scott contended that the legislature is not following the legislative intent for ARPA spending included in last year’s budget. The listed prioritized buckets of spending for ARPA funds were workforce development and recovery, housing, broadband development, climate change mitigation, and clean water initiatives. He’s concerned about spending outside of these initiatives and the lack of a clear ARPA spending plan from the legislature.
Scott also reiterated points from his veto memo on S.30, a firearms bill. He stated that he is willing to work with the legislature in changing the “Charleston loophole” from 30 to seven business days, and does not find the other provisions in the bill problematic.
- Governor Phil Scott:
- Covid – Things continue to move in right direction.
- BAA conference committee meeting. Hope they address some issues – have an unprecedented of federal money and unexpected revenues – because money can be appropriate earlier – can invest in urgent needs right now.
- $15 million for health care workers.
- Need for housing urgent – half of this session’s $145 million housing package and put in BAA – would help tremendously.
- Missing middle stripped by the House – $20 million more stripped by Senate. Hope it’s put back in.
- Concerns about how bill spends ARPA funding – one-time money must be spent on tangible transformational initiatives…specifically housing, climate change, water, and sewer infrastructure, as well as broadband. Legislature passed intent language in FY22 budget; that that’s where the money should go. Can’t bend to pressure and spend it piecemeal without thinking about the big picture. Unfortunately, BAA uses ARPA funds where surplus revenue could be sued instead.
- I laid out an entire plan for the ARPA money – I have not seen one from them.
- Spending the money in the BAA without a roadmap is an opportunity wasted.
- Secretary Clouser:
- BAA is different than typical BAA – total appropriations exceed $200 million…spends $84 million more than governor’s proposal. Some spending outside of the five categories listed in previous year’s budget.
- Proposals to pay off debt are at risk in BAA.
- Asking BAA conference committee to adhere to previous commitments.
- Commissioner Levine:
- Cases down 88% from Omicron peak.
- Rate of hospitalizations have stabilized.
- Number of Vermonters have dropped by a third.
- Four deaths reported over the past four days.
- Will be assessing the need for PCR test sites – focusing more on take-home tests.
- Will move from broader public health recommendations and focus on individual decision making.
- BA2 is in Vermont – still learning a lot about variant.
- Glad that CDC is taking longer to review vaccine for those under 5.
- Scott – Happy to see Christina Nolan step up (to run for Welch’s seat) – she’s a viable candidate, wealth of experience and the right demeanor.
- Explain your veto of S.30? Scott – Back in 2018, we made historic changes to our gun laws…many people haven’t become accustomed to and know that they’re there – we need to educate them, tell them what’s in there before we make further adjustments. I am sensitive to the Charleston loophole – not sure if it’s really a loophole. Congress put it there intentionally to make sure that the government reacted accordingly. Make sure that the background checks were made in an expeditious fashion. I am sensitive that things have gotten complicated and need to make sure that we aren’t creating an opportunity to get guns when they shouldn’t. If there’s any question, they may need a little bit more time – but I think it’s excessive to change from 3 days to 30 days. And the applications run out in 30 days. So someone is buying a gun – they have to fill out an application, it goes through the NICS system – under this proposed law – if they haven’t made a decision in 30 days – the applicant would have to make out another application. They could get stuck in this vicious cycle…there’s an opportunity for us to work together provided the “why” in my veto message…instead of going from 3 days to 30 days – give them a little bit more time, possibly going from 3 days to 7 business days. Should give the fed government enough time to go through a background check.
- Would you veto BAA? Scott – We’ll see where we end up. I don’t like to overuse the threat of veto. But I have some concerns. This isn’t what I thought that we had agreed to in the last budget cycle. We had intent language on focusing on those 5 places. If we spend ARPA money on programmatic needs – we won’t have money yet when we get to the budget are we going to have less housing? Broadband? Climate mitigation steps?
- Hotel motel voucher program ending March 1? Samuelson – We’ll extend current GA housing program through the end of the month – March 31. Gives time to get emergency rental housing assistance program up and running.
- How many Vermonters with BA2? Levine – less than 10 in our own sequencing through January 29. Very little after that.
- Legislators have been using private chat function in Zooms? Scott – Going to give them the benefit of the doubt. Anyone who logs in can watch. But everything should be able to be FOIA’d.
- Scott – Sometime during the legislative session I will make my plans known.
- Levine – Could move to endemic late winter, early spring.
- Covid cases in correctional facilities? Scott – Grateful that none of the cases seem to be severe. Omicron very contagious.
- Other provisions of S.30? Scott – Rest of provisions of the bill aren’t necessary, but not problematic.
- Scott – Concerned about inflation. Not surprised that they’re raising the interest rate though. When all of the money that’s been pumped into our economy dries up – that’s when I’ll be concerned about a recession.
- Re: legislative priorities: Scott – Everything has to work in unison, clear plan for ARPA spending, workforce for the projects, anything that would have to go through Act 250 is a concern (slow process down to get money out)