Rep. Kelly Pajala, Windham-Bennington-Windsor

District: Jamaica, Londonderry, Stratton, Weston, Winhall (Map)
Party: Independent
Contact Information:
P.O. Box 94
South Londonderry, VT 05155

EAI Roll Call Profiles provide a record of how legislators voted on key issues. The profiles are designed to be an educational tool, giving insight into the kinds of policies each representative supports and opposes. These bills did not necessarily become law.


2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Mandatory Paid Family Leave/Payroll Tax (H.107). Passed 92-52 on April 5, 2019. This would put in place a government-mandated Paid Family Leave program paid for with a new payroll tax on income up to $132,900. The program would allow an employee to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth of a child, or 8 weeks for family or personal medical care. Employees would receive 90% of their weekly wages up to the “liveable wage” (currently calculated at $13.34/hr). Wages above that level would covered at 50% of the weekly wage. Wages above $132,900 would not be covered. A maximum cap on the benefit would be set at $1,334 per week. The payroll tax would be initially set at 0.55%, and the estimated total cost would $76 million annually to start. PAJALA – YES

Double the Tax on Home Heating Fuels (H.439, Ways & Means Committee Amendment). Passed 81-60 on March 26, 2019. This would double the tax on the retail sale of heating oil, propane, kerosene, and other dyed diesel fuel delivered to a residence or business from $0.02 to $0.04 per gallon, and to impose a gross receipts tax of 1% on the retail sale of natural gas and 1.5% on the retail sale of coal. The estimated $4.6 million tax will be used to increase funding for the state’s low-income weatherization program. PAJALA – NO

Increase State Minimum Wage Annually by 2.25x Inflation (S.23). Passed 90-53 on May 15, 2019. This would increase the state mandated minimum wage each year by 2.25x the rate of inflation. If inflation remains steady at 2%, the next hike would raise the minimum wage from $10.78 to $11.26 in 2020. Again, assuming steady inflation, the state minimum wage would reach $15/hour in 2027. PAJALA – NO

Increase Capital Gains Tax/Reduces Estate Tax (H.541). In order to address the issue of wealthy taxpayers fleeing Vermont, this bill would increase the estate tax exclusion (raising the point where the tax kicks in) from $2.75 million to $4.25 million in January 2020, and to $5 million in January 2021, resulting in a substantial estate tax cut. However, in order to backfill the lost revenue anticipated from the estate tax cut, the bill would also decrease the exemption for capital gains from 40% to 30% and cap the exemption at $450,000. The former change positively impacts mostly wealthy citizens passing on assets to younger generations, the latter change negatively impacts mostly middle/working Vermonters who rely on a one-time, large dollar sale of a home or business to fund their retirement. PAJALA – YES

Require 24 Hour Waiting Period for Handgun Purchase (S.169) Passed 82-58 on May 15, 2019. The principal purpose of this bill is to require a 24 hour waiting period after completion of a background check to purchase a handgun. It also includes provisions allowing residents of other states to transport high-capacity magazines into Vermont for the purpose of participating in shooting competitions, and to allow the transfer of legally grandfathered high-capacity magazines from one “immediate relative” to another. PAJALA – NO

Allow All School Districts to Delay Forced Mergers by One Year (H.39, Scheuermann Amendment). Failed 69-74 on February 6, 2019. February 6, 2019. This would provide all school districts facing forced mergers ordered by the State Board of Education the opportunity to extend the July 1, 2019 merger deadline currently in law to July 1, 2020. PAJALA – YES

Mandate that Vermonters Purchase Health Insurance (H.524). Passed 92-44 on March 29, 2019. This would mandate that all Vermonters purchase health insurance, restoring at a state level the Obamacare federal mandate repealed by the Trump Administration. However, this state “mandate” comes with no penalty. Instead, the bill would create a database of state income tax filers who do not have health insurance, and commission bureaucrats to encourage these Vermonters to purchase insurance. PAJALA – YES

Ban Plastic Bags, Styrofoam Food Containers, Straws, Etc. (S.113). Passed 120-24 on May 9, 2019. This would make it illegal for businesses to provide “single use” plastic bags to customers at the point of sale, or to provide polystyrene food or beverage containers, or to provide plastic straws except upon request, and to require businesses to charge at least 10¢ per paper bag (if not given away for free).  It would create a “Single-Use Products Working Group” to study the effectiveness of these policies and make recommendations for future regulation. PAJALA – YES

Raise Tobacco Use/Purchase Age from 18 to 21 (S.86). Passed 124-14 on April 23, 2019. This would raise the legal age to purchase and use tobacco and tobacco related products from 18 to 21 years of age. PAJALA – YES

Allow Non-Citizen Voting in Montpelier (H.207). Passed 95-46 on April 18, 2019. This would change the charter of the City of Montpelier to allow non-citizens who are legally in the United States and full time residents of the city to vote in city elections, setting a precedent for other towns/cities around the state. PAJALA – NO

Abolish Columbus Day/Create Indigenous Peoples’ Day (S.68). Passed 113-24 on April 16, 2019. This would abolish Columbus Day as a state holiday and replace it with “Indigenous People’s Day.” PAJALA – YES

Propose Constitutional Amendment Guaranteeing Abortion from Conception to Birth (Proposition 5). Passed 106-38 on May 7, 2019. This would amend the Vermont Constitution to say that “an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling state interest achieved by the least restrictive means.” It would bar any legal restrictions on abortion from conception to the moment of birth. PAJALA – YES

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Elected November 2018


2018 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

$5.9 Billion FY19 Budget (H.924). Passed 117-14 on May 12, 2018. The “Big Bill” budget for FY19 totaled $5,861,048,67, an increase of a little over 1% from the FY18 budget. General Fund spending shows a decline of 17.2%, from $1.6 billion to just under $1.3 billion, but this is only because the legislature eliminated the General Fund transfer to the education fund, replacing that money from other sources. The “apples to apples” growth in spending is 2.5%. PAJALA –

House Passes $59 million Income Tax Increase/Property Tax Cut (H.911) Passed 85-54 on March 21, 2018. This was a two-part bill. The first part shifts some responsibility for funding Vermont’s pre-k-12 education system from the property tax to the income tax. The second part negates an unintended $30 million tax increase resulting from changes in the federal tax code. Part 1 includes a $59 million income tax increase, called a “surcharge,” eliminates the current General Fund transfer to the Education Fund, and dedicates 100% of the sales and use tax to the Education Fund. This allows for a cut in homestead property tax rates of 15 cents/$100 of assessed value. Part 2 lowers each of Vermont’s marginal tax rates for personal income taxes by at least 0.2%, expands the earned-income tax credit, and eliminates the tax on Social Security benefits for Vermonters with less than $55,000 in income. Those voting YES are in favor of reducing the reliance on the property tax for the purpose of funding pre-k-12 education spending, and shifting that burden to the income tax, which they believe better reflects ability to pay. Those voting NO note that H.911 does not address education spending, it merely shifts the costs without reducing or curbing the total tax burden. The income tax surcharge will give Vermont the third highest marginal income tax rate in the nation. The income tax is historically a volatile revenues source, and ill-suited for education funding. The shift to income taxes is unfair to renters who end up paying higher income taxes but get no property tax relief. This new funding scheme is unfair to 30,000 non-residents who chose to work in Vermont and will now be paying this new education tax with not compensating property tax decrease. H.911 leaves all the complexity of the current system in place (CLA, per pupil spending, income sensitivity etc.), and adds even more complexity by introducing new income tax surcharge. And, finally, object to the tactic of tying two unrelated ideas together in one bill, holding tax relief hostage to a shift to the income tax to pay for education. PAJALA –

$16 Million Payroll Tax for Paid Family Leave (H.196) Passed 90-53 on May 11, 2018. H.196 would levy a 0.136% ($16.3 million) payroll tax on employees to pay for a state-mandated, government-run family leave insurance program. However, if the demand for the benefit exceeds the amount raised at this rate, the legislature will have to adjust the rate upward to raise enough revenue to cover the cost. Those voting YES supported the program, believing it will make Vermont more “family friendly” and appealing to young workers. Those voting NO see this as another burdensome “mandate from Montpelier” on businesses, that the tax rate has been set artificially low and will have to be raised, and that this bill levies a $16.3 million tax on all working Vermonters, even though only a fraction of them will have occasion or the ability to benefit from the program. PAJALA –

$15 Minimum Wage (S.40). Passed 77-60 on May 18, 2018. S.40 would raise Vermont’s minimum wage from the current $10.50/hr. to $15/hr. by the year 2024.Those voting YES believe this will benefit low income workers and help to close the “income inequality” gap. Those voting NO believe that such a large and rapid increase in the cost of labor will harm Vermont businesses, the overall economy, as well as the workers the bill was meant to help due to cutbacks in hours, lost benefits, and/or lost jobs as employers struggle to maintain budgets. Additionally, a majority of Vermonters living in low income households, especially poor senior citizens, do not report wage income. While their incomes would be unaffected by the minimum wage increase, their cost of living would rise due to higher prices for goods and services due to the artificial wage increase being passed along to consumers. PAJALA –

$6.4 Million Tax Package to Fund Lake Clean Up (S.260). Passed 92-48 on May 4, 2018. S.260 would raise $6.4 million in new revenue, primarily from a $4.55 million increase in the state rooms and meals tax (from 9% to 9.25%). The rest, $1.94 million, would come via the confiscation of revenue from unclaimed bottle/can deposits, which is currently the property of the beverage distributors and used by them to defray the costs of managing recycling programs. These taxes would not take effect until 2020, and only then if the legislature does not find another source of funding. Those voting YES believe higher taxes are necessary to fund water quality improvements. Those voting NO believe that water quality improvements should be funded with existing resources, not tax increases, that they should especially not be funded in a way that discourages tourism, such as increasing the rooms and meals tax, or in a way that punishes industries (tourism and beverage distribution) that do not contribute measurably to water pollution problem and, in the case of the unclaimed deposit money, actually help maintain a clean environment through recycling programs. PAJALA –

Mandate That Vermonters Buy Health Insurance (H.696). Passed 118-16 on May 12, 2018. The primary objective of H.696 is to require individual Vermonters to purchase and maintain “minimum essential [health insurance] coverage” for themselves and any dependent or pay a penalty to the state beginning in the 2020 plan year. However, legislators do not know how this would work or how it would be enforced, so the bill also creates the “Individual Mandate Working Group” to figure it out. Those voting YES support forcing Vermonters to purchase health insurance as doing so will help keep overall insurance premiums lower. Those voting NO do not support a state mandate to purchase health insurance, assert that forcing citizens to purchase a product from a private company is government overreach, and note that the mandate will make Vermont less affordable for young people, who we are supposedly trying to attract. PAJALA –

Gun Control Measures (S.55). Passed 89-54 on March 27, 2018. S.55 raises the age for long gun purchases to 21, mandates background checks for nearly all private firearm sales, bans magazines holding more than fifteen rounds, and bans bump stocks. Those voting YES believe these measures will result in safer communities by reducing gun violence. Those voting NO believe that these measures will have no measurable impact on safety or violence, create excessive burdens on law abiding gun owners, are largely unenforceable, and violate Vermont’s constitutional guarantee of the “right to bear arms for the defence of themselves….” Those voting YES support these measures. Those voting NO do not. PAJALA –

Legalization of Recreational Marijuana (H.511). Passed 81-63 on January 4, 2018. H.511 legalizes possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for use by people 21 and older and allows possession of four immature and two mature marijuana plants. Those voting YES support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Those voting NO do not support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. PAJALA –

Increase Fee on Telecommunication Bills (H.582). Passed 109-27 on February 16, 2018. S.582 increases the surcharge that appears on Vermonters’ telecommunications bills from 2 to 2.5 percent, which amounts an estimated $6.3 million fee increase. The raise would sunset in four years (2022). The money collected from this increase will be transferred to the Connectivity Fund, which distributes grants to internet service providers that expand networks in underserved areas. Those voting YES believe these additional funds are necessary to connect all Vermonters to the internet. Those voting NO believe that Vermonters cannot afford any more taxes/fees, note that the Connectivity Fund has a history of being raided for other purposes, and that there is no clear plan for how the money would be spent to achieve the stated objective. PAJALA –

Give Taxpayer Funded Legal Counsel to Those Challenging Immigration Status (S.237). Passed on April 10, 2018, by a vote of 97-40. S.237 allows state-paid public defenders, including the Defender General, to provide legal help to immigrants on immigration issues in the federal court system. Those voting YES believe that immigrants and farm workers residing in Vermont should have access to taxpayer funded representation in federal court “in or with respect to a matter arising out of or relating to immigration status.” Those voting NO believe that giving Vermont’s Defender General more responsibilities without increased funding would put a strain on that government office. There is already a backlog of cases, and the Defender General would have to reallocate resources away from other vital government functions in order to provide this service. The federal court system already offers court-appointed legal counsel, and there is no reason for the state to duplicate this service. PAJALA –

Ban More Appliances Via Efficiency Standards (H.410). Passed 137-4 on January 31, 2018. H.410 applies efficiency standards established in 2014 to over a dozen new products, including showerheads, computers and telephones. Those voting YES believe that some consumer goods are too energy-intensive, and that Vermonters should not be allowed to purchase them. Those voting NO believe that Vermonters should be allowed to decide for themselves the costs and benefits of the appliances they purchase. PAJALA –


APPOINTED, November 2017


 

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