House committee further whittles down budget gap - VTDigger

House committee further whittles down budget gap

House Appropriations Chair Kitty Toll, D-Danville. File photo by Anne Galloway/VTDigger

The House Appropriations Committee has just one week left to finish work on the state budget before a deadline when the legislation must pass out of committee and head to the floor.

In the final stretch, the committee has been struggling to close the difference between expected revenue in the next fiscal year and expected spending.

The panel had already found ways to reduce the gap from about $72 million to $18.5 million as of last week, according to lawmakers. As of Monday, the committee narrowed the gap to less than $8 million.

The biggest bite comes in the form of a $5 million revenue package, according to Rep. Kitty Toll, D-Danville, chair of the committee. Toll and other lawmakers say the package is not raising new revenue but increasing compliance with existing tax law.

They found an additional $2.1 million from a hepatitis C program. Toll said senators are working on that issue now, and the House has decided to leave it to them.

A further $2.5 million comes from a corrections package. House lawmakers are planning to keep the Windsor prison open but would reduce the incarcerated population through several initiatives, including electronic monitoring. Legislators are expecting to reduce the number of Vermonters in an out-of-state prison by about 100.

The committee is also counting on a savings of $259,000 from the Vermont Veterans’ Home by asking administrators to reduce the call-out rate for employees, which involves bringing in workers when someone can’t make it to a shift at the last minute.

The committee has also decided to cut a $271,000 appropriation to Vermont PBS, leaving just $1 of funding to keep the appropriation in the budget going forward, according to Toll. The network recently earned $56 million with the sale of a broadcast license.

Later in the day, the committee identified several other areas to make reductions, including savings from the Legislature’s budget, savings from the Agency of Administration and a cut to an appropriation for signs related to liquor control.

Toll said the committee will continue to whittle away at the gap this week.

Elizabeth Hewitt

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