Dean proposes austere budget

With an expected drop in General Fund revenues of $50 million for the current fiscal year, and reduced expectations for next, Governor Dean laid out an austere state budget during his budget address to the Legislature January 22. In fact, it was so severe in cuts to education and Medicaid, that both Democrats and Republicans immediately were rejecting the plan.
Dean proposed an entire state budget of $2.1 billion. He proposed freezing state aid for K-12 education at the current $5,448 per student, instead of the budgeted $5,566. If enacted, that would cost Burlington about $600,000. Medicaid cuts for doctor services, prescription drugs, and, among other things, dental care would affect 15,000 people and save the state $27 million.
The Transportation Agency would lose $15.75 million, which could be offset by $10 million Dean proposes to raise by increasing motor vehicle fees.
On the plus side, public higher education would get an increase of $3.2 million and the Agency of Natural Resources would get $2.8 million under his proposal. Because of the need for greater security following the events of September 11, Dean proposed $439,000 more in emergency funding, some for state building security and some for training.
With much of his proposals being rejected by members of both parties, as well as by education, elderly and disabled advocates, Dean’s budget is seen by observers as challenging lawmakers to raise revenues through things like the cigarette tax. Dean sees that as an optimal solution, which raises money while its dissuades people smoking.
Dean, however, continues to hold firm on rejecting any increased revenue source that includes raising the income tax, which some Democrats and Progressives have suggested should be used to cover education and human services.