(Host) It now appears likely that the Legislative session is going to spill into June. The Senate has given its approval to a plan to appropriate an additional $800,000 to allow lawmakers to stay at the Statehouse until at least June 4th. Legislative leaders say the additional time is needed to work on health care reform and the state’s Medicaid budget.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) Lawmakers needed to take some action on extending the session because funding for the current session runs out at the end of this week. The legislation, unanimously adopted by the Senate with no debate, allocates an additional $800,000 from the state’s General Fund to extend the current session for another three weeks.
Senate Appropriations chairwoman, Susan Bartlett, says the extra time is needed to finish work on a comprehensive health care reform bill and a compromise plan to eliminate a projected eighty-million-dollar deficit in the state’s Medicaid program.
(Bartlett) “We still on several parts of Medicaid in the governor’s proposal do not have final numbers yet. And it’s hard budgeting without numbers. And of course, health care is gigantic. And we feel that it is very important for the Senate to pass a bill and go to conference with the House and to work something out that will be a bill that Vermonters will think is a good idea, and want to move forward on. So a couple of extra weeks is definitely worth that.”
(Kinzel) Senate president pro tem, Peter Welch, thinks it’s important for lawmakers to continue to work on the health care reform issue. And he’s hopeful that a compromise can be worked out with the Governor.
The Senate plan imposes a three-percent payroll tax on companies that don’t offer insurance to their employees. The governor wants to place a three-percent tax on private health insurance premiums.
(Welch) “I’m hopeful that we can have a debate on the floor next week so that we’d be in conference committee. And hopefully, we can reach a resolution in conference pretty quickly and then let the governor decide what he wants to do. Now we want to continue talking with him along the way. The Speaker and I are both quite willing to sit down with the governor and continue finding ways of common ground to improve the health care system in Vermont and bring about the significant reform that we need.”
(Kinzel) Douglas is not enthusiastic about extending the session into June. He thinks lawmakers should try to adjourn sooner.
(Douglas) “It’s not at all impossible for the Legislature to wrap up its work and adjourn by the end of this month. I really believe that if it is determined clearly that that’s the goal, that it can be accomplished.”
(Kinzel) The House, on Friday, is expected to give its strong approval to the legislation extending the session.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.