Budget and Spending

Budget and spending issues.

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House budget plan reduces gap to $18 million

MONTPELIER — House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee say they have found ways to reduce the state’s projected budget from $72 million to about $18 million, but many tough decisions must still be made to bring the 2018 fiscal year budget into balance. Johnson, D-South Hero, and Rep. Kitty Toll, D-Danville, briefed reporters on the status of their budget work Friday as lawmakers prepared for the annual week-long Town Meeting Day break. Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s proposed budget called for increased spending in early and higher education. It called for funding the increase by moving some general fund obligations to the education fund, level-funding local school district budgets and requiring teachers to pay at least 20 percent of their health care premiums.

But the governor’s education proposals were rejected almost immediately by the Democratic-led Legislature. Toll said her committee has been “really slugging it out” during the first two months of the legislative session and has essentially shelved the governor’s entire budget proposal and is working off of the current budget to craft the 2018 fiscal year spending plan. Continue Reading →

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Ashe: Governor needs funding source for new spending

MONTPELIER — Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe said the state Senate is moving forward on crafting a state budget that does not include any of Gov. Phil Scott’s proposed new spending unless he provides lawmakers with a different plan to pay for it. The governor’s proposed 2018 fiscal year state budget included new spending for early and higher education as well as housing. But the new spending was covered by shifting some general fund obligations to the education fund, a move lawmakers have all but rejected. Ashe, a Chittenden County Democrat, told reporters Tuesday at his weekly briefing that the new spending will be off the table unless the governor and lawmakers can agree on other areas to cut to cover it. Scott has maintained his promise not to balance the state budget with new taxes or fees, making closing a projected $70 million gap a larger challenge. Continue Reading →

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House member surveys federal threats to funding, policy

MONTPELIER — As the administration of President Donald Trump settles in, one Vermont lawmaker is attempting to survey the landscape and determine where the state could be harmed by changes in federal policy and funding. Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, D-Bradford, a former House majority leader, is attempting to create a rapid response plan if the president’s policies have a significant impact on Vermont. So far, however, there are still many question marks about what the Trump administration is planning. “There’s nothing rapid about it so far because right now a lot of what I’m doing is trying to get a handle on the landscape — what do we hear might be coming down from Congress, what do we hear might be coming in the form of executive orders,” she told the Vermont Press Bureau. Copeland Hanzas is keeping in touch with the state’s congressional delegation to stay abreast of what could be coming. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers seek reworked budget

MONTPELIER — Leaders of the House and Senate are delicately rejecting the governor’s budget proposal as they hunker down on crafting a spending plan of their own that is likely to include budget cuts and, perhaps, some new revenue. Gov. Phil Scott released his budget proposal last month, which addressed the state’s projected $70 million budget hole in the 2018 fiscal year by moving some general fund obligations to the education fund. The proposal relies on local school districts level-funding their 2018 fiscal year budgets to avoid a massive increase in property taxes. But lawmakers have already rejected one key portion of Scott’s proposal — moving school budget votes from Town Meeting Day to May 23. The Senate Education Committee and the full House held votes rejecting the change in the voting date. Continue Reading →

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Listen: Capital Beat Podcast 2.10.17

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VTDigger’s Mark Johnson joins Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and Vermont Public Radio political reporter Peter Hirschfeld on the Capital Beat Podcast. Topics this week include legislation aimed at standing up to executive orders signed by President Donald Trump and Gov. Phil Scott’s proposed budget. Continue Reading →

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House rejects key plank in governor’s budget

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s budget proposal suffered a potentially fatal blow Friday as the House voted to reject his plan to move school budget votes to May 23. The House voted on an amendment to an underlying education bill from the Senate. It called for moving local school budget votes from Town Meeting Day in March to May 23, as Scott called for in his budget address last month. Scott was looking to provide more time for local school districts to find a way to level fund 2018 fiscal year budgets at 2017 fiscal year levels, which he wants the Legislature to mandate. But the House voted 47 to 87, largely on party lines, against the amendment sponsored by Barre City independent Rep. Paul Poirier, who himself was against the idea. Continue Reading →

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Senate committee rejects Scott’s school budget mandate

MONTPELIER — The Senate Education committee has unanimously voted to oppose Gov. Phil Scott’s plan to mandate that all school budgets be leveled-funded next year — and that rejection has broad budget implications. That’s because the governor had hoped to deal with a budget gap in the state’s General Fund, in part, by transferring early education, higher education and teacher retirement programs over to the Education Fund. The roughly $50 million price tag for this transfer was to be offset by a plan to require that all local school budgets not grow at all next year. The governor’s proposal would also require all teachers to pay for 20 percent of their health care premiums.

Because many school boards are finalizing their budgets for next year, the governor proposed moving all local budget votes from Town Meeting Day in March to late May to give the boards more time to reduce their budgets. Senate Education chairman Phillip Baruth says the governor’s plan is unfair to local school boards. Continue Reading →

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Rutland Senate delegation introduces Scott education plan

MONTPELIER — Rutland County’s three-person Senate delegation has introduced legislation that would codify into law the far-reaching education reforms Gov. Phil Scott proposed in his budget address Tuesday. The three Republican senators — Peg Flory, Kevin Mullin and Brian Collamore — were sought out by Scott ahead of his budget address, according to Flory. “Gov. Scott reached out to us … sometime last week and explained that he was going to be making a proposal that would need some legislation,” she said Wednesday. “So we had legislative counsel draft it and we agreed to sponsor it for him.”

Scott surprised many when he called Tuesday for lawmakers to pass legislation that would require teachers to pay at least 20 percent of their health care insurance premiums. That would put them on equal footing with state employees, and close to workers in the private sector. But health care costs are typically part of the collective bargaining process between local school boards and teachers’ unions. Continue Reading →

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