Global warming deadlock as veto session convenes

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas and the Democratic legislature have failed to reach a compromise on global warming legislation.

The deadlock means lawmakers will not consider alternative legislation when they convene Wednesday to consider the governor’s veto of the bill.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Each side blames the other for the impasse. And both said they were ready to make concessions to advance legislation that reduces Vermont’s contribution to climate change.

The bill the governor vetoed levies a tax on the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant to fund new conservation programs. Douglas objects to the Yankee tax. And he’s criticized the conservation plan as a new bureaucracy.

On Tuesday, House Speaker Gaye Symington met with Governor Douglas to try to reach a compromise. She said she thought lawmakers had addressed the governor’s concerns.

(Symington) “First it’s the tax. We accommodate that. Then it’s the bureaucracy, we make concessions there.”

(Dillon) But Symington said that during the meeting Douglas imposed a new condition: He wants the legislature this week to consider his own proposal to make homes and businesses more energy efficient. She said there won’t be time this week to consider the governor’s plan.

(Symington) “This work should have been done during the legislative session, when we reached out. I reached out in my meetings with the governor and said, governor, we’re at the end of the session here, it’s time, are you serious about passing this legislation?’ The governor was not willing to be engaged during the legislative session. And it’s clear to me he’s not interested in being engaged now.”

(Dillon) But Jason Gibbs, the governor’s spokesman, says Douglas wants to see progress on a bill. He says it’s the Democratic lawmakers who have blocked a deal.

(Gibbs) “It’s clear that the legislative leadership is not interested in compromising. And they have not offered to alter their position in any substantive way.”

(Dillon) Gibbs said the governor had three main points: the Yankee tax had to be completely off the table; he wanted the Public Service Board to do a thorough review of the new efficiency proposal, and he wanted lawmakers to consider his own plan.

(Gibbs) “And that hasn’t happened. These are three very reasonable proposals. And the legislature has refused to even approach meeting those requests.”

(Dillon) That’s not how Symington sees it. But without a deal, she is now trying to muster the two-thirds votes needed to override the governor’s veto.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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