Scott: Public safety and budgeting reality

Governor Scott’s Budget Prioritizes Housing, Public Safety and Flood Recovery Without Overspending or Overpromising

Vermont Business Magazine Governor Phil Scott's office today responded to criticism that he is not doing enough to address public safety. They released the following statement: In Governor Scott’s Budget Address, delivered to the Legislature in January, he said, “I don’t think there will be a lot of disagreement about what’s in this budget. The disagreement will lie in what’s not in it. But pretending we can fund everything isn’t realistic.”

So, when “critics say” the governor has not prioritized public safety, they are ignoring the budget reality and some key facts.

First, Governor Scott’s budget did prioritize public safety.

In a year where available revenue only allowed for 3.57% growth in the General Fund budget over the previous fiscal year, the governor proposed funding agencies, departments and services with public safety responsibilities at an average of 5.6% more than the previous year. 

This includes:

  • 4% increase for the Attorney General’s Office;
  • 4% increase for the Defender General’s Office;
  • 5% increase for the Judiciary;
  • 5.1% increase for the State’s Attorneys Office;
  • 7.5% increase for the Department of Public Safety;
  • 7.6% increase for Vermont sheriffs’ departments; and
  • 10.6% increase for Crime Victim Advocates embedded in the State’s Attorneys offices.

 

And in a year with limited revenue for new base budget initiatives – meaning ongoing programs expected to be funded each year – the Governor’s proposed budget made permanent 20 mental health workers at State Police barracks and added two judge positions to support our court system. This $2.28 million investment represents more than 13% of the total new base initiatives in the Governor’s budget.

Second, Governor Scott recognizes that new funding is not the only way – and not always the best way – to solve problems for Vermonters. So, he has proposed a robust public safety package to address a rise in crime in Vermont communities, including tools to decrease the number of repeat offenders, increase accountability for drug dealers, ensure law enforcement has access to criminal records, and address gaps that have allowed violent, but mentally ill, offenders from being held.

Third, the Governor has also prioritized investments and policy proposals that are essential to improving public safety, including housing, healthcare, mental health and addressing substance use disorder.

Importantly, the General Fund increase Governor Scott proposed grows using available revenue, meaning it is growth that does not require new or higher taxes or fees. In this fiscal reality, Governor Scott focused his increases on top priorities like housing, public safety, flood recovery and human services requirements.

The bottom line is that any additional spending being proposed by legislators would require cuts to these priorities or existing services, or new or higher taxes and fees.

So, when “critics say” the Governor is not doing enough, Vermonters should be told what those critics will cut, or what taxes they will raise, to do more. That’s the only way to have an honest debate on funding priorities this legislative session.

Source: 2.22.2024. Montpelier | www.vermont.gov

Vermont Business Magazine