Senate overrides governor’s veto, House vote uncertain

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(Host) On Wednesday, the Vermont Senate voted to override a gubernatorial veto of a bill that consolidates three state pension funds. The measure will now be considered in the House, where Republicans believe they have the votes to sustain the governor’s veto.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The vote in the Senate was somewhat of a surprise because five of the Senate’s eight Republicans joined with 19 Democrats to override the governor’s veto. The legislation allows three state pension boards to merge their assets into one portfolio that will be worth roughly $2.6 billion.

Backers of the plan say it will save more than a million dollars a year in administrative costs. Douglas vetoed the bill because he feels labor groups have too much power in appointing four of the nine members of a new combined pension investment board.

Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Welch disagrees. He says the bill could save the state a lot of money at a time when the Legislature is considering some tough fiscal issues:

(Welch) “And in that context I believe that it raises the burden of justification on anyone who’s going to take an action that is going to cost the Vermont taxpayer money and the people of Vermont opportunity to maintain the ability to tread water while we try to get through what is a fiscal crisis of the state.”

(Kinzel) The measure now goes to the House. The outcome there is very uncertain. It takes a two thirds majority to override a veto. There are 60 Republicans in the House. To be successful, the Democrats will need to attract at least 10 GOP votes. House Republican leader Peg Flory thinks her caucus will hold together and support the governor:

(Flory) “We’ve also had some Democrats that have talked to us that were a little bothered by it and I’m not sure how they’ll come down. I know they’re getting a lot of pressure to vote to override the veto.”

(Kinzel) Democratic leader Carolyn Partridge thinks the vote will be close and she knows she needs some GOP members to win this fight:

(Partridge) “It would be my hope that some of the members of the other caucus, some of the Republicans, would see the value in this bill that we passed, they would see the value in saving the taxpayers of Vermont a million dollars every year. It’s my hope that people will be able to cross party lines and be more objective about this and vote to override the veto.”

(Kinzel) The last time the Legislature voted to override a gubernatorial veto was in 1990. At that time, Governor Madeleine Kunin vetoed a budget adjustment bill because she felt it would cause a deficit. Lawmakers overrode the veto when it became apparent that the state would have sufficient revenues to pay for the spending increases in the bill.

The House could vote on the override as early as Friday.

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

The three senators who voted against the override were Hull Maynard and Wendy Wilton, both of Rutland, and Mark Shepard of Bennington.

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