Small Business Watches Vermont Legislature Warily

Date: April 19, 2022

Set Up To Fail?

In order to comply with the Global Warming Solutions Act, Vermont needs to lose about 1.26 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. According to this greenhouse gas emissions calculator, that’s equivalent of 124 million gallons of heating oil. Vermont could also meet the 2025 mandate if the state eliminated about half of the gasoline sold last year. Of course, this is just the first hurdle to their goal.

In 2030, the law requires Vermont to shed 3.46 million metric tons of CO2, which is the equivalent of every drop of gasoline and diesel fuel sold in Vermont in 2021. So, what happens if the goal isn’t met? Vermont can be sued to force immediate government action, which could include a ban on the equipment that burns fossil fuels. Into this void comes the Clean Heat Standard (CHS), which is the most comprehensive carbon reduction strategy to emerge from the Vermont Climate Council. The CHS is a performance standard that requires Vermont fuel dealers to pay others to reduce their sales of oil heat, propane, natural gas, and kerosene if they don’t or can’t do it themselves. Passed by the House already by a 96-44 margin, the Senate is poised to approve the measure later this month.

What about motor fuels, you ask? The plan to reduce the sales of gasoline and diesel fuel include incentives for Vermonters to purchase electric cars and the installation of more electric vehicle charging stations. In 2035, the plan calls to ban the sale of new cars with combustion engines. Some lawmakers and lobbyists are worried all of this will be too little, too late to meet the mandates in the Global Warming Solutions Act.

Unemployment Benefits Increase and Minimum Wage Increase

  1. 159, omnibus legislation intended to support economic development and workforce revitalization also includes further minimum wage increases, the imposition of a new $25/child unemployment benefit and the establishment of a task force to study a paid leave insurance program.

The increased unemployment benefits will cost employers $100 million over the coming years, of which more than $90 million would come directly from Vermont’s UI Trust Fund, resulting in corresponding increases in UI taxes on employers.

Specifically, the bill would create a $25 increase on all weekly UI benefits, including the maximum benefit. As introduced, the first two years of this increase would be funded through a special fund created with $7.8 million in federal ARPA dollars, and thereafter it would be funded directly out of the UI Trust Fund.

Cleverly, Senator Michael Sirotkin, Chairman of the Senate Economic Development Committee decided to couple this legislation with the forgivable loan program that will be administered by the Vermont Economic Development Authority. To be eligible for a loan, VEDA shall determine that a business has experienced at least a 25% reduction in its adjusted net operating income in calendar years 2020 and 2021 combined as compared to 2019, or other appropriate bases of comparison where necessary and that 50 percent or more of the reduction occurred in 2021. The maximum loan shall not exceed: 1) the lesser of $200,000 or six months of eligible fixed costs; 2) or if, due to the nature of the business and its historical experience fixed costs are not an accurate measure of ongoing operational need, another amount based on a comparable measure of cost; 3) or the amount of the cumulative decline in adjusted net operating income during the COVID-19 public health emergency in 2020 and 2021.

NFIB/VT is concerned that the budget passed by the House doesn’t consider the full $100 million in appropriations this bill/program envisions and to the capital investment grants are increasingly becoming an item of contention.

 

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