An impasse over the issue of teacher health plans continues to thwart a budget compromise between Democratic lawmakers and Republican Gov. Phil Scott, but both sides are back at the bargaining table this week.
On Wednesday morning, Scott hosted House and Senate leadership in his ceremonial Statehouse office to try to iron out a compromise. Scott says the talks haven’t yielded any breakthroughs.
“But certainly the ongoing talks are positive,” Scott says. “We continue to talk about areas of agreement and so I would view that as a positive step in the right direction.”
Scott wants a statewide contract for teacher health plans. He says the change would yield $26 million in savings to the education system.
Democratic leaders in the Legislature say Scott’s proposal would hurt the collective bargaining rights of public school teachers, and they say there are other ways to save money on teacher health benefits.
Scott has said he’ll veto the state budget if lawmakers don’t acquiesce. Republican lawmakers have enough votes to sustain that veto. And Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe says that’s driving the urgency to find middle ground.
“We could invite a veto. We’d be right back here a month from now and no one would be better off, including the public,” Ashe says.
Lawmakers plan to adjourn this week, which leaves them only a day or two to work out a deal with the governor.