Rep. Bock: Of two important bills, Scott vetoes one, takes no action yet on the other

By Rep. Tom Bock

On the very first day of the 2020 session, Democratic leaders renewed their pledge to continue their work to strengthen the economy and make Vermont more affordable for working families.

We are feeling the pinch of a shrinking workforce and an aging population. Currently in the state, there are about 55,000 fewer people under age 45, and 44,000 more over age 65 than there were in the year 2000. To keep up with expected retirements and job growth, Vermont will need 10,000 new workers each year. Although unemployment is down, we need to grow our economy and workforce.

The legislature started off by re-introducing two major leftover bills from the 2019 session. Establishing a statewide family leave program and increasing the minimum wage are critical pieces in recruiting and retaining a workforce. Both pieces of legislation would attract young people and support working Vermonters.

A big disappointment was the failure of the Paid Family Leave bill (H107) to be signed into law. The bill would have guaranteed up to 12 weeks of paid parental or bonding leave and up to 8 weeks to care for family members – to be funded by a 0.2 percent payroll tax on Vermont workers.

The bill passed in both the Senate and House, but was vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott. The House didn’t have enough votes to override his veto. It required a two-thirds majority vote in the House, but only received 99 in favor of overriding to 51 against. The override was defeated by just one vote.

The other priority issue – raising the minimum wage – is considered an important step in addressing income inequality. The 2020 version agreed on by the Senate and House leadership would increase the current minimum wage of $10.96 to $11.75 in 2021, then to $12.55 in 2022.

Passing the bill into law is not without risk. There are concerns that a wage increase could harm small businesses and put stress on the economy.

But supporters of the bill, myself included, say that raising the wage will attract more workers to the state, and help younger workers stay in Vermont. It will give our approximately 40,000 minimum wage workers a much-needed raise. If you are a full-time worker working at minimum wage over these next two years, you will receive $5,000 more in wages.

The bill was passed by both Senate and House and delivered to Gov. Scott, who vetoed the bill.  Now it’s up to the legislature to override Scott’s veto with a two-thirds majority.

As always, I welcome any questions, opinions, thoughts, and concerns you may have on any legislative issue. You can contact me at tbock@leg.state.vt.us or tmbock@vermontel.net. I look forward to hearing from you.

Tom Bock of Chester represents Andover, Baltimore, Chester and North Springfield in the Vermont state legislature.

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  1. M. Reed says:

    Anyone notice the price of rents lately? Think you’d have enough for heat and food each month on a 40-week job that pays minimum wage? Let alone childcare expenses? The veto override was the absolute right thing to do, and I’m proud of the legislature. If Gov. Scott was REALLY serious about attracting families to VT the Family Leave Bill would have been signed. It makes absolutely no sense NOT to support families when you’re trying to attract taxpayers to the state. Scott was pandering to his base. Time for someone new in the governor’s seat.

  2. Barre Pinske says:

    I am disappointed Tom supported the wage bill everyone should know wages are reflective of productivity profits. This wave of rewards with out effort is messing up our culture everything works by incentive. The idea has been you work hard get good at something you move up or move on then get paid more. Too high of wages, taxes and insurance can sink a small company or slow growth. Many of my friends in small business are doing things themselves because the true cost of help does not add up and there is so little good help. You can’t treat everyone the same we are not all McDonalds or bigger efficient companies. I can’t hardly get people to do one thing I need done well enough to bring a product to market not to mention a random 10 other things needed. I do my work and the work of a helper, I have to pay them, the taxes and ins. Then I hear I’m impossible to work for because I’m not nice and don’t know what it’s like to work for someone. The reality is I have to get a new jobs every week making something with my hands and having the people be happy and or take a hit on my side of the coin. I have done this for 30 years my millionaire buddies could not survive the way I do for a month. I hope they are not reading this I may need to borrow money from them! Lol The moral of the story yes wages need to be fair but the income has to be there for it and all the added costs government tacks on. If you run a company people depend on like plumbing and heating it can be passed on to the consumer if you are making widgets or selling pie no one really needs it comes out of a place of want and disposable income and there are limits.

  3. Cynthia Prairie says:

    Editor’s note: Elijah Cummings was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the 7th district in Maryland from 1996 until his death in October 2019.

  4. Daniel Loraditch says:

    Democrats know nothing about business.
    Raising wages for full time workers will cost workers money. Small businesses that haven’t already, will make all jobs part time. Some will go out of business. Democrats never saw a s***hole they didn’t like. Vermont will be the new Baltimore and Politicians will have more federal government aid to steal. Just like Senator Cummings did for 40 years, promising he would make things better as they got worse.

  5. Mark Mitchell says:

    Raising minimum wage in Vermont will not attract the workforce we need. It will strictly attract more people looking for state aid. Most people earning minimum wage are also subsidized by state aid of one form or another. Vermont needs to attract business by reducing red tape for development.

  6. Tom,

    I believe an effort to provide more jobs with benefits would be better than $1.59/hr. raise over two years.

    If you can only get 20 hours per week as a sales clerk that increase amounts to less than $40.

    Visit any retail store with more than a couple employees and I think you will find they are part time except management.

    I believe Vermont especially southern end will become a second-home state. I don’t know how workers who provide for the “flatlanders” will be able to live and raise families here. Property caretaking seems to be the major way of work.

    Just my ramblings, let’s have a coffee sometime.

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