Guv vetoes “unsustainable” pension reform bill

by Guy Page

Governor Phil Scott on Monday, May 2 vetoed S.286, the pension reform bill because “it does not include enough structural change to solve the enormous unfunded liability problems the State faces,” he explained in a letter to the General Assembly.

The Legislature and state employee organizations had hammered out a reform bill that would reduce the state’s unfunded liability – but not enough for the governor.

In response, Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint and House Speaker Jill Krowinski today promised an immediate veto override. S286 passed unanimously in both House and Senate, they noted.

“We could not be more disappointed that the Governor vetoed S.286, the bill to stabilize the public pension system. We stand with our teachers and public employees to proudly defend the collaborative work we did to take on the looming pension crisis and protect our public pensions,” they said.

The full text of Gov. Scott’s letter appears below:

Pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution, I am returning S.286, An act relating to amending various public pension and other postemployment benefits, without my signature because of my objections described herein. 

Since the day after this bill was introduced, before it was voted out of a single committee, in either chamber of the General Assembly, I have been clear it does not include enough structural change to solve the enormous unfunded liability problems the State faces. I offered balanced solutions, which were disregarded.  

It is unfortunate this veto will likely be easily overridden, not for me, but for Vermont taxpayers and State employees who will bear the burden in the future. I will acknowledge, this bill takes some positive steps, and the easiest thing for me to do would be to sign it, assure the public we solved the problem, and move on.

But given the scope of this problem and the risk it poses to the financial health of our state, I cannot bring myself to do that. It would be disingenuous because I know we could have done better.

The fact is, in several years – despite adding a quarter of a billion dollars in additional money (on top of the roughly $400 million for our regular, required payment) from taxpayers – the state will be faced with the same unsustainable system we have today.

I won’t be governor when those chickens come home to roost, and many of you will not be serving in your current roles, either. But the Legislature’s unwillingness to question the deal reached between a handful of union and legislative representatives will come back to haunt our state in the not-too-distant future.

And when it does, we won’t have the unprecedented level of federal funds and state surplus dollars at our disposal, and the fix will be tougher on both taxpayers and public employees.

Categories: Legislation

3 replies »

  1. If only Governor Scott had articulated the specific pension issues needing reform in his reply, perhaps then Vermont taxpayers would contact their respective legislators to lobby for those specific changes… not that lobbying for them would change the intransigence of Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint and House Speaker Jill Krowinski, who, after all, represent the government and teacher unions, not the voters who elected them.

    But had the Governor been specific, at least Vermont taxpayers would better understand what’s being asked of them.

    What is the most important structural change required?

    Replacing the ‘defined benefits plan’ with a ‘defined contribution plan’ for starters. It’s one thing to guaranty that taxpayers will always contribute a certain amount to the employee’s pension funds, as the ‘defined contribution plan’ would do. It’s another entirely to guaranty a rate of return on the investment of those funds. No other investment manager, fiduciary or otherwise, can make such a guaranty.

    Why, then, are Vermont taxpayers being required to do so?

    Because they don’t understand the issue.

  2. ASK the QUESTION! WHY does Vt. have 2X the state employees than NH, which is similar in size w/almost double our population? Why? Just look at TJ Donovan’s A/G Dept..Oh right..You can’t since they changed their website which once listed ALL employees in ALL departments. I wish out state auditor would take a good hard look at ALL state departments and ALL their employees to SEE the “overlap” & redundancy, especially in ANR/DEC/AAF&M as they have GROWN exponentially while the number of “farms” & “polluters” have diminished. Thie Gravy-Train at taxpayer expense NEVER shrinks, it ONLY grows, year after year, with Unions to stiff-arm any attempt to cut or trim their budgets. Then after the paychecks come their pensions, “unsustainable” cannot BEGIN to describe the liabilities. Same with our “teachers” & armies of “facilitators”, “assistants”, and staffers galore to “educate” kids at the highest per-pupil costs in the nation with some of the lowest scores & “outcomes”. And WE are forced to pay for failure at all levels of this state? The absurdity of all this is staggering, what good is a “Veto” that can be overridden by the “uniparty”? If only we could shake off the apathy & return to sanity, IF…

  3. Another good reason to change the state reps in November. VT taxpayers need to stand up and demand our representatives do their jobs, solve problems, and stop the virtue signaling, “feel good” legislation.
    Eventually, there will not be enough taxpayer generated revenue to fund unneeded bureaucracy, clean heat, and pension plans that have kicked down the road.

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