Vermont Business Magazine House Speaker Mitzi Johnson on Wednesday afternoon joined House Majority Leader Representative Jill Krowinski, Appropriations Committee chair Representative Kitty Toll, and the Ways & Means Committee chair, Representative Janet Ancel, to remind Governor Phil Scott that Vermonters expect him to present responsible budget proposals. Governor Scott replied that he proposed a balanced budget that does not cut key programs no matter what the legislative leaders suggest.
In a statement the House leaders said: "The Governor’s January budget proposal shifted costs onto the backs of property taxpayers. Though the Governor asked local communities to level-fund their school budgets, voters last week sent a clear message to the Governor when they rejected his proposal by passing 90% of school budgets across the state. Legislators are working to build a solution that will grow Vermont’s economy without hurting the most vulnerable in our state or balancing the state budget on local property taxes.
"The Governor promised Vermonters that he was ready to come to the table after Town Meeting week, but he continues to avoid the discussions. With only six legislative days left before the Appropriations Committee must vote out the budget bill, time is running out for Governor Scott to honor his commitment.
"Just yesterday (Tuesday), the Appropriations Committee sent a memo inviting the Governor to join their conversation. They have not yet received a response. “We’ve done the work to close $52 million of the budget gap. We are asking the Governor to come back to the table to work with us to close the last $18 million,” said Appropriations Chair Kitty Toll.
"Governor Scott’s proposal to increase property taxes by $50 million was irresponsible. The House remains committed to closing the budget gap in a way that will promote healthy communities, a strong economy, vibrant future for Vermont.
"Speaker Johnson acknowledged that, 'In every budget cycle, Governor’s stick with their original proposals for a period, but after the soundbites fade, they get down to work with the legislature to develop a plan that works for Vermonters. We’re now at that point, and Vermonters expect all of us to come to the table and work together'.”
Governor Scott’s Communications Director Rebecca Kelley later Wednesday issued this statement:
"The Governor presented a balanced budget without raising taxes and fees – including property taxes, despite the misleading rhetoric – without cutting programs that protect our most vulnerable, and while making investments in areas that will help grow our economy.
"The Governor remains committed to the goals and parameters established in his budget, and we’ve continued to communicate this directly to the Legislature. House majority leadership has made it clear they do not support the Governor’s priorities, or want to work within those parameters to balance the budget. This is a difference in priorities and approach from previous administrations, not a lack of communication.
"The House has had seven weeks to explore and propose ideas to balance the budget in a way that addresses our economic, workforce and affordability challenges – as the Governor did in his budget. They’ve accepted the majority of the savings proposals offered by the Governor, while offering no alternatives beyond the threat of across-the-board cuts to services and putting frontline staff at risk of layoffs.
"We remain ready to work with them as they present a complete budget proposal, to find common ground, and further discuss the differences between their budget and the Governor’s."
Source: Speaker. Governor. 3.15.2017