Legislature to return after adjournment

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(Host) The Legislature adjourned on Saturday night but lawmakers will be coming back to Montpelier in several weeks.
That’s because Governor Douglas has vowed to veto the budget bill over a provision dealing with a labor dispute at the Vermont State Colleges.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Early Saturday evening the gavel came down on the 2005 session but the battles between the governor and Democratic leaders will now continue for several more weeks.

During the course of the nearly five-and-a-half- month session lawmakers adopted:

A ban on smoking in all public and private bars and clubs.

A package of corrections reforms.

A proposal that allows the dry cask storage of radioactive wastes at Vermont Yankee.

A plan to increase the state minimum wage.

A proposal to eliminate an eighty-million-dollar Medicaid deficit.

A renewable energy portfolio plan.

A streamlined procedure for advanced medical directives.

Changes to the state’s campaign finance reform law.

But Democratic leaders and the governor could not reach agreement on the central issue of the session – health care reform. Douglas says he’ll veto the legislation adopted by the House and Senate because it includes a payroll tax.

And the governor says he’ll veto the state budget for next year because it includes a provision that sends a dispute between the faculty and management of the Vermont State Colleges to binding arbitration.

Douglas says he’ll call lawmakers back to the Statehouse in the new few weeks in a special session to deal with the budget. He says the state needs to have a budget in place by July 1st. That’s the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Negotiations between the governor and the Democratic leadership for the upcoming special session have gotten off to a very rocky start. In a very unusual move, Douglas held a pep rally for Republican lawmakers in his office after he formally addressed the House and Senate.

He delivered a stinging criticism of Democratic leaders to the cheers of the audience:

(Douglas) “The Democrat leadership knew full well my firm disagreement with the special deal for this union that chose to create a standoff to appease their big labor friends. They’ve knowingly put the interest of a few above the needs of the many. I will break the standoff. I will veto the budget and ask the Legislature to return to fix it and restore the people’s real priorities.”

(Kinzel)Senate president Peter Welch dismissed Douglas’s criticisms and noted the Vermont State College initiative had the support of several key Republicans.

(Welch) “And it really had to do with the very narrow question – retirement and whether those retirements benefits that should be promised, should be effected the bottom line here folks in this country and in this state are hanging on by their fingernails for retirement benefits.”

(Kinzel)Senate Health Care chairman Jim Leddy was more blunt about the governor’s remarks.

(Leddy) “The statement by the governor to us in our formal chamber and then to go out and utter put them side by side and what you see is hypocrisy, utter hypocrisy.”

(Kinzel) The disagreement between the Democrats and the governor is important because when lawmakers return to the Statehouse – the whole state budget will be up for reconsideration – not just the provision that the governor objects to.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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