Content starts here
AARP AARP States Vermont

VT Legislative Update from AARP VT


Vermont’s 2022 legislative session began on January 4th in the midst of yet more pandemic confusion as the highly contagious omicron variant derailed plans to open the legislature up again to in-person legislative activity. Instead, the legislature is taking it week-by-week in a hybrid session, with the House members almost entirely back in-person and the Senate mostly still meeting virtually. The session started with Speaker Krowinski and Pro Tem Balint calling for greater investments in COVID-19 recovery. On January 18th, Governor Scott delivered his budget address to the legislature, presenting a $7.7 billion budget which also includes tax relief proposals aimed at older Vermonters.

Tax Relief for Older Vermonters
Governor Scott is proposing a $50 million tax relief package that includes provisions aimed to help older Vermonters and retirees. AARP VT is supporting the following tax relief proposals:

  • Increasing the Vermont SS tax exemption;
  • Exempting military pension income and surviving spouse benefits;
  • Expanding the Earned Income Tax (but we also want to see the existing age cap of 64 eliminated. Eliminating the age cap will allow Vermonters over the age of 64 who are still working, are lower income and have no dependent children to access this important credit); and
  • Implementing a student loan interest deduction.

Vermont’s population is one of the oldest in our nation and expanding the income threshold that qualifies for the Social Security exemption will help to improve the quality of life for Vermont seniors. This demographic is one of Vermont’s biggest consumers of services, and this proposal will help to put money back into Vermont’s economy. Also, in planning for retirement, savvy potential retirees understand what various states have to offer them in terms of affordability, and most states have more generous treatment than Vermont.
Military retirees, who often retire while still in the prime of their work lives, are also savvy with respect to what various states have to offer. Presently, Vermont is one of only 3 states that fully taxes military pensions. Exempting 100 percent of military retirement pay from Vermont’s personal income tax will encourage more of this demographic to come to Vermont, or to stay, to take up careers in the private sector, to raise their families, and to contribute to Vermont’s economy.

Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is an excellent tool to help lift older low income workers out of poverty. The student loan interest deduction will help Vermonters, many who are age 60 and older, who are burdened with high student loan debt.

ACTION ALERT: Please look up your locally elected VT House and Senate members here and call or send an email to let them know you support expanding the income threshold for exempting the state tax on Social Security and eliminating the state tax on military pensions.

Hearing Loss Coverage
AARP VT is part of a statewide coalition of organizations and individuals that have come together to advocate for comprehensive health care insurance coverage for hearing loss services and hearing aids. Hearing loss is a pervasive and serious health problem, and many people can’t afford to get conventional hearing aids. Hearing aids typically cost thousands of dollars, require multiple visits to specialists and often aren’t covered by health insurance. Vermont is the only state in New England that does not require private health insurance companies to provide this essential health insurance coverage.

Legislation that passed last year required the Administration to examine opportunities to modify the state’s benchmark health plan (which are those plans offered in VT under the Affordable Care Act) to include coverage for hearing aids and other specified health services listed in the bill and generally not currently covered by health insurance. Based on preliminary actuarial estimates, the rate impact of covering hearing aids and hearing loss services is minor, ranging from .05% to .09%. The premium impact is projected to be equally as de minimus.

We are advocating that the Green Mountain Care Board rule to move forward with the federal application to include coverage for hearing aids and hearing loss services in the Affordable Care Act health plans. The coalition is also advocating for the passage of H.266, to require private health insurance plans to include this coverage as well.

Long-term Care Funding
The long-term care system in Vermont is in crisis, made worse by the ongoing pandemic. That is why AARP VT has joined a statewide coalition, called Vermont’s Long Term Care Crisis Coalition, to advocate for a series of reforms intended to stabilize care services.

Currently one in three personal-care-attendant positions at home-health agencies is vacant. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 3 of 14 adult day care centers have closed, while the rest are operating below pre-pandemic capacity. Additionally, 10 residential care homes have closed since the pandemic, eliminating 137 beds. Others, including assisted living communities, are stopping or reducing new admissions at a time when the need for their services is growing exponentially. Staffing shortages are the main driver behind the system’s shrinking capacity to care for Vermonters.

Governor Scott’s recent budget recommendation calls for a 3% increase for long-term care services provided at home and in the community. This is an important step in the right direction, but there is a desperate need for greater investments. This sector suffered significant staff shortages well before the COVID-19 pandemic; since that time the industry has been absolutely ravaged by them.

Vermont’s Long Term Care Crisis Coalition is calling on lawmakers to make a 10 percent increase in the investment in Choices for Care home and community-based services and Assistive Community Care Services (ACCS); to provide additional funding to bring the adult day care rate to $25 per hour; and to pass H. 153, legislation to create a mechanism for setting Medicaid reimbursement rates for longterm care providers.

Vermont Fiscal Year 2023 State Budget
The House Committee on Health Care and Senate Committee on Health and Welfare have been working on legislation related to COVID-19 recovery, including extending previously enacted Covid-related provisions such as allowing Medicaid-funded long-term care facilities to hold beds open if an individual goes into the hospital so they can maintain their Medicaid payments.

The House Committee on Appropriations was hard at work on FY22 Budget Adjustment Act (BAA), which they passed unanimously early in January. The BAA is now being discussed and adjusted in the Senate. They are expected to complete their work the first week of February and then move on to testimony from the Administration on the governor’s FY23 proposed budget.

The House and Senate Committees on Appropriations have also been working on the FY23 budget and heard from various witnesses across state government on the governor’s proposed FY23 budget and on their department or agency’s budgetary needs.

Livable Communities
The House Committee on Transportation has been working on the proposed transportation budget. AARP VT is advocating to strengthen implementation of Complete Streets policy by allocating $300,000 in funding to the VT Transportation Department so that the state can hire a consultant to modernize the state’s outdated Road Design Standards from 1997 providing municipalities with the tools necessary to create walkable, livable communities that work for all users of the road.

Driver License Age Discrimination Two bills have been introduced, H. 578 and S.276, that would require Vermonters 75 years of age or older to appear in person and pass both a vision test and road test in order to renew their driver operator’s license. AARP VT opposes this legislation because it discriminates against older drivers on the basis of age. AARP’s policy supports effective, evidence-based assessment models to identify at-risk drivers of all ages. These bills as written do not speak to an assessment, but rather testing—a highly imperfect litmus test where a driver would either pass or fail.

Uniform Durable Powers of Attorney
AARP VT is supporting legislation that would make Vermont’s durable power of attorney laws uniform across the states. Currently 29 states have enacted the uniform model legislation. Passage of this legislation in Vermont would help ease planning for the incapacity of a loved one, with provisions to discourage abuse, encourages third party acceptance, provides for accountability, and provides recourse both for misuse of the document, and for failure to recognize the document. The legislation if enacted in Vermont provides many important updates to our older laws, and uniformity from provision to provision and state to state. This bill, H. 536, is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.  

--Philene Taormina
Director of Advocacy, AARP Vermont


About AARP Vermont
Contact information and more from your state office. Learn what we are doing to champion social change and help you live your best life.