Scott administration attempts to quell state workers’ shutdown fears

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Kaj Samsom
Tax Commissioner Kaj Samsom, right, with Gov. Phil Scott. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

As concerns over the growing threat of a government shutdown swirl among state employees, heads of state agencies and departments are attempting to quell their fears.

Top officials in Gov. Phil Scott’s administration who oversee thousands of employees are telling workers that an agreement on a spending package will be reached before a government shutdown would take effect on July 1.

But state workers’ worries continue to mount because a resolution to the budget impasse in Montpelier remains elusive with just eight days before the end of the state’s fiscal year, and the Scott administration has not released a contingency plan detailing what would happen if government operations stopped next month.

Employees don’t know whether they would receive pay and benefits or be able to show up to work if a July shutdown kicked in.

“I think the administration is doing everything they can to not talk about the governor’s shutdown plan,” said Steve Howard, the executive director of the Vermont State Employees Association, a union that represents more than 6,500 employees.

Hoping to alleviate anxiety among workers in the Department of Taxes, Commissioner Kaj Samsom sent out an email to employees Tuesday, stating that it’s “extremely unlikely” that the state will see a shutdown scenario next month.

“It may be ugly in the next 10 days, and there may be last minute deals, but I am confident that we will have a budget that allows us all to come to work on Monday July 2nd,” Samsom wrote. “because nobody wins politically or otherwise if the government isn’t operating on July 1.”

Samsom said that shutdown rhetoric has been used as a “political tool” and said it is a shame that the media “gobbles it up and amplifies it.”

He told employees that if the July 1 deadline approaches and it appears that a budget deal will not be reached, he will send them more information.

“Until then, I encourage you to be skeptical of the political and media noise about a shutdown,” he wrote.

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