By Guy Page
The Vermont Senate yesterday gave initial approval to a hefty pay and benefits increase for the Vermont Legislature. S.39 provides weekly salaries for all House and Senate members during the 18-20 week Legislative Session:
- for 2025, $1,000
- for 2026, $1,100
- for 2027, $1,210.
The Senate, however, rejected a proposed 13 week legislative session amendment offered by Sen. Russ Ingalls (R-Essex). Gov. Phil Scott has said he would support S.39 if it limited the Legislature to three months.
The Senate backed S.39 in a roll call vote. Yes votes: Baruth, Bray, Brock, Clarkson, Cummings, Gulick, Hardy, Harrison, Hashim, Lyons, MacDonald, McCormack, Norris, Perchlik, Vyhovsky, Watson, Westman, White, Wrenner.
No votes: Campion, *Chittenden, Collamore, Ingalls, Kitchel, Mazza, Sears, Starr, Weeks, Williams. Absent: Ram Hinsdale.
Chittenden County Democrat Tom Chittenden said he objects to two features of S.39: “adjournment pay” and the $69 per diem meal allowance.
“First, I don’t support the adjournment compensation in Section 5. When we are adjourned, we are adjourned. I see any time I choose to put in to this role during adjournment as service and not as compensable time,” Chittenden – a descendent of Vermont’s first Gov. Thomas Chittenden – said.
“Secondly, I understood from the floor speech that the new pay rate for the session was based on the average Vermont salary but the bill continues to include daily meal stipends for legislators. The average Vermonter does not get $69 dollars a day for meals so with the meal stipend, this would be more than the average Vermonter’s salary.”
As Chittenden notes, S.39’s combined pay/benefits package includes more than just a base pay increase. It also features:
Special Session per diem – pay a per diem (daily) rate equal to one-fifth of the weekly pay.
Health insurance benefits – legislators would be eligible for the same health care benefits now enjoyed by State of Vermont executive branch employees.
Adjournment Pay – when out-of-session, lawmakers would receive weekly pay one-fifth of the in-session pay ($242/week).
Mileage reimbursement – travel from home to the Capitol at the federal mileage reimbursement rate (currently 65.5 cents).
Professional development out-of-state – Lawmakers would receive a per-diem (pro-rated from weekly salary) for attending out-of-state professional development and other duties.
Meals reimbursement or allowance – Lawmakers would elect either actual meals reimbursement or the federally-established government meals allowance for Montpelier, Vermont – which is currently $69/day.
Lodging reimbursement or allowance – Lawmakers would elect either actual lodging reimbursement or the federally-established government lodging allowance for Montpelier, Vermont – which is currently $127/day.
Childcare/eldercare – Each lawmaker with $75K or less of household income will receive up to $1600/year for necessary childcare or eldercare.
Parking – A member who attests that physical limitations make it difficult or impractical to walk from lodging to the State House may receive reimbursement for actual costs incurred for overnight parking.
Orientation pay for members-elect – Each newly-elected non-incumbent will be paid a per diem based on lawmakers’ weekly pay for attending new member orientation, usually held in December.
Death pay – The estate of a deceased member will receive the entire pay of the two-week period in which the member died.
Legislative leave of absence – Employers of lawmakers will be required to provide leaves of absence for lawmakers in pursuit of their legislative duties. Candidates must inform employers shortly after filing to run for office.
Speaker of the House, Senate President pay hikes – the elected leaders of both chambers would receive about twice the pay of other lawmakers.
The 19-10 margin suggests the Senate, anyway, might not have the 2/3 votes necessary to override any veto by Gov. Phil Scott. After third and final reading today, S.39 will proceed to the House.