Doing the right thing is never free or easy. It can be a costly thing as House Republicans are discovering in Montpelier. Case in point: Democrats want to suspend traditional house budget rules to push through House Bill 275 of 2011.
H.275 proposes to provide a tax credit to Vermont employers who hire recently deployed, unemployed veterans. What started out as a noble-hearted bill has now become the usual partisan "sharpened stick" for jabbing across the aisle.
Last week, House Democrats requested that rules be suspended to bring H.275 to the floor for "immediate, decisive action". What's the big hurry for Democrats? Throughout all of 2009 and 2010 legislators could have done the same thing. Now all of sudden it's so urgent the House must suspend rules of review.
Well, the Democrats' plan will indeed circumvent the legislative process to expedit H.275's passage. But then pushing bills through without review is something Democrats universally seem skilled at accomplishing-at least when they choose to remain in their home state (witness Wisconsin's elected MIAs).
As it turned out, the Republican minority in Montpelier wasn't so quick to sign off on the bill risking negative press about being heartless to veterans. It's not that they are heartless when it comes to veterans-far from it. Vermont Republicans have alwsy been in the forefront of supporting active and ex military personnel. In the case of H.275, it's because they'd like to see how this generous tax credit will be funded. In short, Republicans want the bill to go through its normal legislative process.
According to GOP minority leader Rep. Don Turner (Chittenden-9), "I supported the bill in committee and it is likely that all members of the Republican caucus will support the legislation. However, without the proper vetting process and the lack of information on the bill-as it was being brought to the floor-I was concerned about the financial implications."
Turner said that both Democrat and Republican legislators, facing a whopping $176 million deficit, should provide a fiscal note for any proposed piece of legislation. That sounds reasonable to me. Such "fiscal notes" would mean everyone-Republicans, Democrats and the voter-can more fully understand the fiscal impact of a house bill, even those that both sides of the aisle strongly endorse like H.275.
H.275 apparantly will cost taxpayers approximately $600,000 which will add to the deficit.
Despite the financial implications, House Republicans will more than likely support this bill by the time we go to press. Still I have to agree with Rep. Turner on the principle of the thing: it's disappointing Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Democrats are using Vermont troops to play politics in the new house session.