Report from Montpelier

Kate Webb
Kate Webb

By Rep. Kate Webb

On the Speaker’s desk lies a letter from 23 legislators asking the legislature to resolve the $113 million budget gap by raising revenue alone. It then sets forth a variety of tax and fee alternatives to consider. Upstairs in the Appropriations Committee rests a resolution from 22 different legislators asking the legislature to do the opposite, no revenue, but offers no suggestions on where make $113 million in cuts.

One of the challenges of being the majority party is that it is not an option to slide into the far reaches of such all-or-nothing options, satisfying only those on the edges of the political left or right. In the end, the majority must steer the body toward a responsibly balanced budget, knowing everyone will find some fault.

Unfortunately, wild or extreme proposals are far more interesting to the press, providing entertaining reading worthy of a Ken Follett novel. The real, but quietly boring news is this: seven Democrats and four Republicans put in countless hours, working collaboratively to bring forth a budget with which they could all live. On a unanimous bipartisan basis, the committee rejected the two extremes and put forth a budget that required some cuts, some revenue, and a long term plan to change the a troubling trend toward a widening gap in years to come.

Following hours and hours of debate and a flurry of amendments, most not ready for prime time, the House passed the budget and tax bills, sending them onto the Senate for consideration this week. With the ability to use April tax filing data and additional testimony, the Senate versions will make changes to the House-passed bills. These differences will be sort out in May before adjournment. If you would like to offer recommendations for change, you should do so by contacting our Chittenden County senators.

This week, the House is debating several dramatic bills. Chief among them is H.361, the education bill, designed to reform funding, spending, access and governance. Also of great significance is H.35, a far-reaching water quality bill designed to provide strategies and resources to protect our rivers, lakes and ponds, while also meeting EPA requirements for pollution reduction to Lake Champlain. We will also take up a bill related to telecom authority and the Capital Bill.

I am available most Mondays for meetings and by phone or email the rest of the week at (802) 233-7798 or kwebb@leg.state.vt.us.