House GOP pitches amendment to cut budget growth

House Republicans are proposing an amendment to the Big Bill on Friday that would significantly reduce state spending in 2014.

The amendment would reduce overall General Fund spending growth from 4.7 percent to 3.7 percent. The House GOP would cut the Appropriations Committee budget by $15.9 million.

The Republican caucus holds a minority in the House and is unlikely to garner support from Democrats or Progressives for their proposal.

Don Turner, Minority Leader in the House, told his caucus on Thursday that the plan builds reserves, funds the teacher pension system at a higher level and preserves spending on child care, higher education, working landscape grants and the Low Income Heating Assistance Program.

The House GOP proposal puts $3.8 million in temporary reserves in anticipation of federal sequestration and $15.2 million in the rainy day fund; the House Appropriations Committee puts $3.8 million in temporary reserves and $5.35 million in the rainy day fund.

Gov. Peter Shumlin’s budget increases General Fund spending by 5.8 percent and sets aside no additional monies for internal reserves to address future federal cuts.

An additional $6 million contribution toward teachers’ retirement will bring down overall state expenditures by $11 million over the life of the fund, according to Turner. The total amount Republicans propose to contribute to the pension plan is $10.7 million; the Appropriations Committee set aside about $4 million.

The governor’s proposal to increase payments to providers and reduce the health care cost shift by 3 percent, gets a haircut in the GOP proposal. House Republicans propose a 1 percent increase over three years. This reduction would save about $10 million, according to a spreadsheet from Turner, and result in federal global commitment cuts of roughly $15 million to Department of Vermont Health Access programs ($10 million) mental health ($2 million) substance abuse programs ($500,000), the disabilities program ($2.2 million) and family services ($770,000).

Republicans also cut $2 million for the Clean Energy Development Fund.

Here are the details on additional cuts:

$1.5 million in subsidies to Catamount Health and Vermont Health Access Plan patients;

$125,000 for Vermont Legal Aid;

$200,000 for the Vermont Attorney General’s office;

$450,000 for economic development;

$322,250 for expanded school lunch;

$74,000 for a new forester;

$390,000 for the Department of Environmental Conservation;

$100,000 for the Council on the Arts;

$8,000 for the Youth Conservation Corps;

$22,000 for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra;

$500,000 for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board;

$45,000 for the Council on the Humanities.

Anne Galloway

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