Significant Dollars in Diverse, Needed Programs Provide a Foundation Upon Which to Build
The Vermont Legislature crafted and Governor Phil Scott recently signed the FY23 budget, H.740, committing to unprecedented investments in climate action and resilience and setting the stage to help Vermonters reduce their energy costs, their reliance on expensive and polluting fossil fuels, and much more.
This level of commitment to climate action is long overdue and essential. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report has signaled a dire warning about our global future and the consequences of inaction and ongoing, harmful geopolitics demonstrate the high costs – unbearable for some families – of remaining dependent on imported fossil fuels.
The FY 23 budget invests more than $200 million in cost-cutting and carbon-reducing strategies, including $80 million in clean and affordable heating and weatherization services for low- and moderate-income Vermonters, expanded incentives and grants for electric vehicles (EVs) and EV charging equipment, dollars to help to ready homes and our state’s energy grid for electrification, investments in our climate workforce, and aid to municipalities to reduce their energy costs and carbon footprint.
“The Legislature made a historic investment in programs that reduce our reliance on imported, costly, and price-volatile fossil fuels and really ramp up our efforts to help combat the climate crisis,” said Johanna Miller, Energy & Climate Program Director at the Vermont Natural Resources Council. “This package of climate strategies is a critical downpayment on Vermont’s ability to meet the legally binding requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act and help all Vermonters – lower-income and historically overburdened Vermonters in particular – power their lives, heat their homes, and get where they need to go with more affordable, cleaner options.”
Lauren Hierl, Executive Director of Vermont Conservation Voters stated, “Vermonters have long demanded bold climate action, and it’s exciting to see Vermont lawmakers step up with historic investments in climate action. These investments will cut pollution, create good-paying jobs, and help Vermont families button up their homes, and access cleaner and more affordable ways to stay warm and get around.”
“In the face of a worsening climate crisis and global oil markets that again and again have spiked due to natural disasters, economic crises, and the actions of dictators like Putin, the need to finally get off of fossil fuels is more obvious than ever,” added Ben Edgerly Walsh, Climate & Energy Program Director with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “Though these investments will not accomplish that by themselves, they are the most significant investments Vermont has ever made in climate action, and will help thousands of Vermont families cut their fossil fuel use and make ends meet.”
“Moving away from highly price-volatile, imported fossil fuels and toward greener, more affordable alternatives is both a moral and economic imperative,” stated Jordan Giaconia, Public Policy Manager with Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility. “This year’s budget includes a historic suite of investments that promise to bring Vermont one step closer to fulfilling our climate commitments and achieving energy independence.”
Additionally, the Transportation Bill, has also been enacted into law and includes major investments in programs and resources for more clean, equitable transportation strategies, including zero-fare public transit, the creation of innovative new rural public transit options, and more.
“As transportation is nearly 40% of Vermont’s carbon emissions, the largest contributor of greenhouse gases in Vermont, the House’s actions in passing bold investments in vehicle electrification sets Vermont on a course to achieving the required carbon reduction requirements,” said Robb Kidd, Vermont Chapter Program Manager at the Sierra Club. “The budget and transportation bills strategically support the transition to remove Vermont’s dependencies on fossil fuels by helping those of low and moderate incomes to benefit from incentives, strategically deploying infrastructure, continuing investments in fare-free transit, and supporting innovative rural transit solutions.”
“Lawmakers worked tirelessly to put this climate investment package together, while also making needed investments in other programs and services to support Vermonters in these trying times. We thank and applaud House Speaker Jill Krowinski, Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, and Appropriations Chairs Mary Hooper and Jane Kitchel in particular for their dogged work in service of Vermonters,” added Miller. “We look forward to promoting these important programs and also continuing the work to ensure long-term policies and strategies are identified and implemented to ensure Vermont meets its climate commitments and moves Vermonters off the high-cost, high-carbon roller coaster of the fossil-fired economy.”