Business & Economy

Ashe readies for special session in response to Trump cuts

Tim Ashe
Senate President Tim Ashe. File photo by Anne Galloway/VTDigger
The head of the Vermont Senate said Thursday he is making preliminary plans for a special session in the fall because of expected cuts in federal funding.

Sen. Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, said he has asked senators to “pencil in” time in the last two weeks of October. That would be shortly after the federal budget goes into effect Oct. 1, the start of the federal fiscal year. The Legislature typically adjourns in May.

Ashe said the state would be “royally screwed” if the budget proposal the Trump administration unveiled Thursday is put into effect. Substantial cuts are suggested for environmental programs, labor and legal aid, among others. Some programs would be completely defunded, including the Community Development Block Grant program and the Low Income Heating Emergency Assistance Program.

“It would be so off the charts we’d have to come back,” Ashe said. Officials have said federal money accounts for about 35 percent of the state budget.

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, has also raised the issue of a special session with House members but has not talked about specific dates, according to spokesperson Katherine Levasseur.

“We are certainly deeply concerned and keeping an eye on the changes on the federal level, especially cuts that might affect Vermont,” Levasseur said.

Gov. Phil Scott said he too was concerned about possible cuts.

Ashe made the comments during a press briefing where he also pledged to make a $15 minimum wage the priority for the Senate during next year’s session. He said it would be necessary to take another year to figure out the implications of raising the minimum wage.

Among the concerns are that some might lose benefits like child care subsidies, offsetting the gains made by raising the minimum wage. If the wage were raised to $15 an hour today, Ashe said, 7,000 Vermonters receiving child care subsidies would be affected.

The current Vermont minimum wage is $10 an hour. In 2018 the wage is set to go up to $10.50. After that, the increase is tied to inflation.

Several bills have been introduced this year calling for an increase in the minimum wage, including an effort by House Democrats to increase it to $15 an hour by 2022. None has emerged from committee.

Ashe said increasing the minimum wage was a matter of fairness and the best way to directly boost those struggling economically in Vermont. He said it was to be decided whether the $15 minimum would go into effect immediately or over time.

Scott has opposed boosting the minimum wage to $15 because it would raise costs for Vermont businesses.

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  • Neil Johnson

    We’d have $250 million more if we adopted a real ethics commission, 47 states before us have proven this 47 times!

    We’d have another $114 million if we gave teachers the best plan Vermont health connect can offer with NO deductible to them! Nope we pay them a Cadillac plan the public can’t even get.

    We’ve wasted 5 million in our little town of 1500 over the past 5 years in GRANTS…

    The reason our taxes are so high is because we have massive waste, fraud and general aversion to the concept of frugality. I’m sure there is much more waste too…..

    Oh Regional Planning commissions? How many planning commissions do we NEED? We’re blowing $173k in our little 3 town district.

    There’s plenty of room for cutting….

    • walter carpenter

      “The reason our taxes are so high is because we have massive waste, fraud and general aversion to the concept of frugality.”

      What is your concept of frugality?

      • Neil Johnson

        Affordable housing for instance. We are pumping millions of state money into this. We held a contest, if zoning allowed 6 homes per acre, wasn’t subject to ACT 250, wasn’t considered a major subdivision (6 or more) then we could easily have homes for $100,000. No tax money needed. Instead we pay other agencies to get through the current regulatory night mare and pay extra money for permitting.

        In our town we are paying $45,000 in engineering and permitting for 4-5 park benches by the river. It’s done with grant money. It’s true. No sane person would do this. It won awards. It’s being overseen by Regional Planners whose budget is mostly labor consisting of $170,000. This is the opposite of frugal. A park bench is about $145-$300. Here’s a picture of the site.

        • Christopher Daniels

          Ah, Citizens Reports, where anyone can write something without recourse, including promoting a scam auto company known as Elio Motors.

          • Neil Johnson

            Yes, their business model seems to be failing. But the concept and car is actually solid. Instead we fun Solyndra and where did that go. It won’t be the first time a transportation idea didn’t work, Yugo? Honda Insight? Vega? Pinto? And it seems Tesla might be next! I personally lost $100, but that was the price of a nice night out.

            Yes you can comment on Citizen reports and you won’t be censored because your ideas are different.

          • Neil Johnson

            If you’ve got something you’d like to contribute, we’d love to have you contribute!

        • walter carpenter

          “Here’s a picture of the site.”

          Thanks, Neil. I followed the link and recognize the area quite well, but I saw nothing about the park benches in this report. Is there a piece about these benches in the Valley News as well?

          I asked about your “concept of frugality” to see how you defined it. Thanks for answering. I agree with you about affordable housing, though I think that more than just ACT 250 is involved with this problem. This is also not just a Vermont problem. It is nation wide and not getting any better. Having lived in areas of urban and suburban sprawl that can wipe out a landscape, I do agree with the idea of Act 250.

        • walter carpenter

          Act, not the Valley News, but the Valley Reporter.

  • Neil Johnson

    Oh, our affordable housing study came up with 3 easy ways to have real homes from $53,000 to $108,000, No federal or state funds required. People could own their own home for less than rent. We’ll have the results posted next week. What was that costing us $15 million?

  • SnoCamo

    Why be reactive? Why not be proactive and reduce spending now?

    Consider it a head start on closing the annual end of fiscal year 75+ mil gap.

  • Dave Bellini

    We might have to eliminate the house of representatives. Just have a senate like Nebraska, The legislature should “share in the pain.” Apply the same “efficiency” mantra to the legislature.Two bodies of legislators is a “duplication of services.”

    Then, bring the out-of-state inmates back and house them in the statehouse. Legislators are so concerned with the well being of criminals they could work with them first hand. 1 Senator to 72 inmates …. they could do it easily.

  • What liability, if any, does the state incur, if a VT law enforcement legally
    questions a “undocumented” person, discovers they are undocumented, and
    then releases that person who goes on to commit a crime?