Business & Economy

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.

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Elizabeth Hewitt

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  • Dave Bellini

    Good job to get to 5 million. QUESTION: Any way to reduce the millions spent on overtime? Many DOC employees have quit state service because they were ordered to work unending overtime. The state can’t afford it and most employees want to see their families after work. Could be a “win/win” if someone took a close look at it.

    • Neil Johnson

      Since 2013 the budget has been raised a minimum of $100 MILLION dollars EVERY year, some years $300 Million dollars. So really this is all mushy, fresh, sticky cow patties, they are not cutting the budget.

      In 16 years the state of Vermont has NEVER cut the budget from the previous year, despite what you hear. There were only two times when the budget was actually held in place. 2003-2004 and 2011-2012.

      The reason why CNN and many news organizations are being considered unreliable is they claim and print about the “cuts” the government is making, yet they are spending more every year. It’s blatant false numbers and misconception given out by our leaders.

    • Paul Richards

      simple; It’s cheaper to pay the overtime then add public sector union employees. This is one of the many results of the innate division created when management and employees are cast into such an adversarial relationship.

  • Neil Johnson

    5 years ago we lived on 1 billion less dollars than this years proposed budget. The cost of living did not rise 25% in the past 5 years.

    Vermont has as serious spending problem. We spend 2x more tax revenue per person than NH. There are only 9 states with a higher tax/budget per person than Vermont. Most states spend 60% less per person than Vermont.

    Our budget from 2000 was 2.3 Billion. 2016 it is 5.2 Billion. I ask are we getting 2x more benefit as a citizen since 2000?

    We could refund every citizen in Vermont $4,800 is we adopted our old budget. We could reduce the tax burden of every citizen by $4,800 if we adopted our 2000 budget. One might argue that we are not getting any better benefits than 2000. Our price and living expenses are close to 2000. Clearly we have a spending problem.

    Source: usgovernmentspending.com

  • Steve Baker

    The panel had already found ways to reduce the gap from about $72 million to $18.5 million… As of Monday, the committee narrowed the gap to less than $8 million.
    With just a tiny bit of “Work” they were able to Squeeze $64 million out of a bloated budget…..
    But that begs the question, Why was that even in the Budget to Begin with?

  • Just call the budget even and be done with it. After all, there will be a mid year upward increase as they do every year. The budget is a facade.