Briefing of Legislature Wed. 12/4 to cover TCI ‘carbon tax,’ re-org of legislative offices, state revenue, economy, budget

By Guy Page

December 2, 2019 – Members of the Vermont Legislature will gather Wednesday, Dec. 4 to get a pre-session briefing on important climate, clean water, and transportation initiatives, the state’s fiscal, economic and budget status, and the proposed reorganization of the five legislative support offices (Capitol Police, IT, Sergeant of Arms, Joint Fiscal, and Legislative Council).

The public meeting begins at 10 am in the Pavilion Auditorium at 109 State Street; see agenda.  After opening remarks by House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe, Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore will give a Clean Water Update. The 2019 Legislature approved a comprehensive, multi-year plan to clean up state waters, including Lake Champlain.

At 11 am, Moore is scheduled to discuss the status of the Transportation Climate Initiative, AKA the “stealth carbon tax” under consideration by 13 northeastern states. The plan would charge fuel dealers a ‘pollution fee’ which would be passed along to gasoline and diesel fuel buyers, at an estimated first-year price of 5-18 cents per gallon at the pump. TCI’s final plan is scheduled to be released this month, in time for 2020 consideration by (first) state officials and (then) state legislatures. Gov. Phil Scott said emphatically last month that if the TCI is a carbon tax, he opposes it. He also wants to see what other states do with the proposal. Speaker Johnson said last month she believes TCI approval would require a vote by the legislature, but (like Gov. Scott) needs to see the plan’s details.

Officials from Legislative Council and VT Agency of Transportation will discuss “Transportation Initiatives,” including (maybe) the feasibility of a Barre-Montpelier commuter rail proposed by renewable power developer David Blittersdorf.

At 1 pm, state economist Tom Kavet will review state revenues and the economy. At 1:45, Steve Klein of Joint Fiscal will discuss the 2020 state budget. At 2:15, the Joint Management Legislative Committee will discussed proposed organizational changes of support staff under the Golden Dome.