By RePs. Kate Webb
and Jessica Brumsted
The Legislature is currently on Town Meeting break, scheduled to reopen on March 14. Over the next two weeks, we will provide an update on a variety of topics under discussion in the State House. First up: addressing the Vermont State Budget. While we monitor potential cuts the federal government is expected to pass down, we face our own challenges at home. As your representatives it is our job to make decisions that are informed, balanced, and thoughtful. As we listen to testimony, your feedback is also critical to our decision-making. It is an honor to serve you.
Preparing for Federal Cuts: Rarely before has a new administration in Washington left Vermont with such uncertainty. With President Trump’s campaign pledges to cut program funding and his new agency secretaries promising sweeping regulatory changes, your citizen legislators are naturally concerned. Over one-third of Vermont’s budget, approximately $2 billion dollars, is reliant on federal grants. These grants help support our investments in health care, human services, transportation, education, labor and commerce, natural resources, and safety. A coordination plan is now in place to bring committee chairs, advocates, and staff of our federal delegation together to prepare as new Executive Orders or funding changes come forward.
Vermont’s Budget Update For many years the Legislature has worked to bring long-term stability to the budget by refraining from using short-term funds to pay for ongoing expenses. This year, there is an additional call to prepare for a decrease in federal funds, the amount as yet unknown. The budget Governor Scott proposed has left the Legislature with a number of challenges. First, he uses reserve funds to cover ongoing expenses. Second, he moves new and existing programs to the Education Fund, creating a $50-million dollar deficit. Testimony before committees suggested this proposal would likely face two legal challenges and increase property taxes. We are determined to send the Senate a balanced budget in late March, being mindful of the revenue capacity of Vermonters and the Governor’s pledge to veto a budget that raises taxes or fees. We are continuing to seek alternative plans and discuss options with the Governor.
Funding Clean-up of Vermont’s Waterways Our community is well aware of the threats to water quality from stormwater pollution, particularly in Lake Champlain. The Clean Water Act of 2015 brought the primary sources of pollution—agriculture, roads, and developed lands—into a coordinated plan to reduce pollution. A temporary funding source using the Property Transfer Tax helped open the Clean Water Fund, but this source is scheduled to expire in 2018. Many suggest that the most meaningful way to connect stormwater pollution to responsibility is to tie it to the manner in which land is used or developed. A per-parcel fee based on acreage and impervious surface would do that but will take time to develop. Using the Treasurer’s 2017 Clean Water Report, legislative committees are reviewing temporary funding options and proposing a variety of taxes and fees. Some stakeholders as well as the Governor are not in support of these plans. We will update as things progress.
Next week we will report on other activities in the House that occurred before the Town Meeting break. In the meantime, you can contact Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org or (802) 233-7798 or Jessica at email@example.com or (802) 233-2120.