(Host) Lawmakers have wrapped up their special session, after passing legislation that helps reduce a projected deficit in the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund.
The bill also creates two sales tax holidays during 2009, it restores a number of research and development tax credits and it makes some changes to the state capital gains tax.
VPRs Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) The basic framework of the legislation was unveiled last week by Democratic leaders as part of their effort to shore up support for their override of the Governor’s budget veto.
The bill contains a number of provisions that Douglas supports but were not included in the legislature’s original budget plan.
One section deals with the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund. The fund is in serious financial shape because there’s been additional demand on the program during the recession.
Senate Economic Development Chairman Vincent Illuzzi told his colleagues that the fund is projected to record a $160 million deficit in 2010 if no action is taken. He says this is money that the state will have to borrow from the federal government.
In the short term, the bill freezes benefits for recipients and raises the taxable wage base for employers from 8 to 10 thousand dollars.
For the long term, Illuzzi says the legislation creates a special commission that will be charged with finding some major reforms:
(Illuzzi) "Hopefully when we return in January we will be in a position to make some tough but necessary changes that will perhaps adversely impact both employers and unemployed workers – but a shared pain which brings us to solvency sooner rather than later, to avoid the negative consequences on the General Fund which in turn will then affect the programs that many of these people rely upon to live day to day."
(Kinzel) The legislation also creates an incentive program to encourage state employees who are eligible for full retirement to step down.
Employees who take the incentive will be given $15,000 over a two year period.
Senate Appropriations chairwoman Susan Bartlett:
(Bartlett) "One of the many goals is that for this upcoming year it will prevent the need for any more pink slips going to folks and that we can handle in a managed way retirement of state employees that are eligible for retirement."
(Kinzel) Legislative leaders chose not to deal with the Governor’s veto of the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning bill.
Senate President Peter Shumlin says his decision wasn’t based on a vote count that showed the Governor would win this fight:
(Shumlin) "No – the Speaker and I were really focused on the budget override and getting this economy moving forward, passing a responsible budget. We simply didn’t have time to look into the override on the decommissioning bill. We’ll look at that when we get back in January."
(Kinzel) It’s likely that Vermont Yankee’s decommissioning costs will be considered next year as part of the Legislature’s review of a bill extending the plant’s license for another 20 years.
For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.