House, Senate override governor's veto of state budget

06/02/09 1:10PM By Bob Kinzel
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AP Photo/Toby Talbot
House Speaker Shap Smith confers with Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin and Rep. Sandy Haas.
(Host) For the first time in Vermont history, the Legislature has successfully overridden a governor's veto of the state budget.

In the Senate the override came easily. But over in the House, the Democrats prevailed by one vote.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.

(Speaker Shap Smith)"Please listen to the results of your vote. Two thirds of the vote - or 100 - necessary to pass. Those voting yes: 100. Those voting no: 50. You have voted to override the veto of H441."

(Kinzel) With those words, House Speaker Shap Smith made history and it also marked the first time that a Legislature has overridden two vetoes in one year - earlier lawmakers also prevailed on the same sex marriage bill.

In the end, it was a party line vote - all 94 Democrats, the 5 Progressive members and one Independent voted to override the veto - all 48 Republicans and two Independents voted to sustain it.

Democrats defended their budget as a reasonable way to meet the fiscal needs of the state while Republicans argued it didn't make enough cuts and raised too many taxes.

Allison Clarkson is a Democrat from Woodstock:

(Clarkson) "I believe that the budget we passed wasn't perfect but it was a compromise and it was a reasonable compromise. It wasn't easy. It recognized the lousy financial straits we're in and made very difficult cuts. It cut income taxes - it cut income taxes for 95% of Vermonters by lowering income tax rates."

(Kinzel) Burlington Progressive David Zuckerman said the Legislature's budget was much better than the Governor's plan:

(Zuckerman)"While this budget is not what I would have preferred, the alternatives in every way are worse. Further reliance on property taxes would only hurt our small businesses and our schools even more than this budget does."

(Kinzel) Vergennes Republican Greg Clark summed up the feelings of many Republicans:

(Clark) "This budget increases spending, raises taxes on hard working Vermonters who at this point can ill afford to pay more. It is irresponsible and shameful of us to abuse the trust they have put in us this way."

(Kinzel) One of the key votes was Arlington Democrat Cynthia Browning.  She's been an undecided vote for the past week. In the end, she said it was time to move on with this budget:

(Browning) "The time for discussions is over. There was an opportunity to reach a compromise over the weekend, it was not achieved. I will be voting to override the veto. I want to put this budget in place, reduce the uncertainty facing us and move forward into the next fiscal year."

(Kinzel) After the override votes, Governor Douglas said he was disappointed by the outcome and he said the Democrats don't understand the serious nature of the state's fiscal condition:

(Douglas)"This is an extraordinary time in our nation's economic history and a lot of folks around here just think it's another normal budget year. It's not. It's profoundly different, and I haven't seen in the supermajority the kind of leadership that we need to get Vermont in the place where we can be competitive and create more jobs and be prosperous for the future."

(Kinzel) Lawmakers will return to the Statehouse on Wednesday to consider a bill that deals with the state's unemployment insurance trust fund, makes changes to the capital gains tax and restores research and development tax credits.

For VPR News I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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