Governor Scott weighs in on Senate budget

-A A +A

Governor Scott weighs in on Senate budget

Tue, 04/19/2022 - 5:40pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine The state Senate today presented its version of the House passed "Big Bill." Governor Phil Scott had hoped the Senate version of the state budget would be closer to his own proposal, released in January. For instance, the House version did not include virtually any of the governor's $100 million in economic development. The Senate added in some of the governor's priorities, but not all. The two legislative bodies must resolve their differences before the budget is sent to the governor. Scott has twice before vetoed the budget and has said several times, including today, that he would do it again if necessary.

The governors' proposal presents a $8,165.0 million spending plan (all in) for fiscal year 2023, which starts on July 1 of this year. The Senate passed version (H.740) would spend $8,131.8 million. Both sides presented balanced budgets.

The Senate is working on a handful of bills that contain some of the spending proposals found in the governor's version. They account for another $156,784,018, including $54.9 million for economic development, $41.9 million in workforce development and $15.2 million in affordable housing.

Governor Phil Scott today issued the following statement on the Senate version of the fiscal year 2023 budget:

In January, I presented a balanced budget that included investments to grow the economy by adding housing, expanding broadband, combating climate change and more. To help make Vermont more affordable, I also proposed progressive and broad tax relief.

We also made significant investments in protecting the most vulnerable, like money to prevent substance abuse, and permanent housing for those experiencing homelessness.

You’ve heard me talk about my concerns with the House-passed budget, and while the Senate version is better and comes closer to the budget I proposed, there are still some major differences.

While I appreciate both the House and Senate funded many shared priorities, they’ve focused more on government systems. We must take full advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow the economy, revitalize communities and make Vermont more affordable for workers, families and those who create jobs.

For example, from what we’ve seen thus far, the Senate budget reduces or eliminates funding I proposed for:

  • Substance abuse prevention programs;
  • Tax relief for seniors on fixed incomes, military veterans, low-income Vermonters, nurses and childcare workers and more;
  • Economic development for rural and small communities that have seen economic stagnation and decline over the last ten years;
  • A capital investment program, which would help small businesses like childcare centers and local general stores survive and recover from the pandemic;
  • Career and Technical Education;
  • Workforce retention and recruitment initiatives;
  • Cell phone tower expansion;
  • and more.

These are the type of investments we must make in order to help all corners of the state see more prosperity and opportunity.

The fact is, investing in initiatives to grow the economy, make Vermont more affordable and retain and attract the workers we desperately need will do far more to change our trajectory than the bridge funding the legislature has prioritized.

While the Senate version has moved in the right direction, it still doesn’t make the most of the unprecedented opportunity we have before us. But fortunately, there’s still time to come together to make sure we are prioritizing long-term growth over short-term fixes.

Senate Appropriations Version

The Senate Appropriations Committee budget is balanced, including the total operating appropriations in this bill as well as funding in other legislation that has or is expected to pass the Senate. This bill and the other fiscal bills of this session reflect priorities to allow Vermont to emerge from the pandemic in the strongest position possible.

FISCAL HOUSE IN ORDER

  • Pensions & OPEB ($15m) FY23 transitional funding to pre-fund employee/teacher health care
  • Reduce State’s Worker Compensation fund deficit by 1/3 ($2m)
  • Significantly reduces the VT Center for Crime Victims structural deficit ($2.5m)
  • Addresses Cannabis Board structural deficit (30% prevention dedication remains)
  • Judicial security need funded with $750k and effective utilization of state paid deputy sheriffs
  • Retires Property Management deficit ($5m) and OPR deficit ($1.1m)
  • Allows $20m early bond redemption and establishes the Capital Projects Cash Fund
  • Establishes the IT Modernization Fund
  • Requires fee inventory reporting
  • GF Reserves over required levels, totaling $284m projected reserves balance

MAINTAIN ESSENTIAL SERVICES (see summary sheet below)
Human Services

  • Community MH, DDS and Home Health Care providers rate increase of 8% ($26.6m total all funds)
  • Direct Care workers contract funded ($4.5m all funds)
  • SUD treatment/recovery bed capacity increase ($2m) and rate increase for SUD treatment facilities ($880k)
  • New Jenna’s House program funded ($500k) and Recovery Centers base increase ($540k)
  • Substance Misuse Prevention Coalitions, mobile MAT and Recovery employment services ($3.4m)
  • Vermont Legal Aid and Health Care Advocate given base increase ($460k)
  • HIV/AIDs Orgs ($295k), UVMMC HIV/AIDS clinic ($100k) and the Free Clinics ($102)
  • Childcare provider ($4.9m), CIS ($900k) and Parent Child Center ($1.5m) given base increase
  • Adult Day operating support continued ($1.5m)

Other Areas

  • Regional first responder dispatch development ($11m) with task force on fair funding options
  • Conservation Districts allocated $1m from Clean Water funds annually
  • UVM ($10m) and VSC ($10m) base increases and VSC ($14.9m ARPA) transition bridge plan
  • Arts Council provides match ($113k) to draw federal grant
  • Pay Act FY2023 is funded ($26m GF)

STRATEGICALLY INVEST REMAINING ARPA & GF ONETIME FUNDS (see ARPA summary sheet)

  • Broadband - $95m
  • Climate - $205m including $8m for Advance Metering
  • Water - $94m including $11.5m for mobile home/low-income wastewater
  • Housing - $70m, VHCB and S.226
  • Community, Workforce and Economic Development - $117m with H.159 and H.703 included

4.19.2022. Montpelier www.vermont.gov