MINORITY LEADER DON TURNER

Gov. Phil Scott presented his budget proposal to the legislature last Tuesday afternoon. His proposal has many components that I feel are essential as we move forward. The budget increases spending based on a growth rate calculation of 2.36 percent. This means that there will $82 million more spent this year without the need to raise taxes, fees or any other creative revenue source. The governor’s proposed budget continues to move Vermont in a more affordable direction. Again this year, I will work with the governor to assure that a balanced budget is passed without severe reductions in services or raising taxes and fees.

A group of fellow legislators and I introduced H.707 an act related to prevention of sexual harassment Thursday. This bill isn’t about changing the laws around what is harassment. I think reasonable people can agree that every person should be able to punch in at work and not worry that they’re going to be hit on by a co-worker or harassed by a supervisor. Many people who have been harassed stay silent because they don’t know where to turn or because the risk of losing their job is too great. This is especially true for young women in the beginning of their careers. I’ve never been harassed at work, but I have three daughters and a number of friends. I can see that they or their peers may experience harassment at some point. I feel that it’s just wrong! I want my daughters and all women to be able to concentrate on their job, not wasting time and effort on how to evade an unwanted advance. I want us to make sure Vermont is the kind of place where my daughters and all our daughters know they can say “knock it off” and that somebody has their back.

I look forward to representing you and your concerns in Montpelier.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns. I can be reached at the Statehouse by calling 1-800-322-5616 or by cell at 373-5960. My email address is dturner@leg.state.vt.us. Thank you and have a great week.

REP. CHRIS MATTOS

The week started off with the governor’s FY2019 budget address on Tuesday. The governor stood strong on not raising taxes or fees for the second consecutive year. The overall budget is a proposed $3.867 billion, and $82 million increase that does not grow faster than wages in Vermont. The address focused on making Vermont more affordable and being able to track this based on the percent of income spent on housing and utilities, healthcare, taxes and fees.

Growing the economy was also a focus by tracking the economy based on size and growth of the workforce and employers as well as regional wage growth. An initiative that is interesting to me is “Think Vermont,” which the governor would like to invest $3.2 million to attract working age families and workers to Vermont. I have been involved in the discussions relating to this initiative and it is very exciting. Stay tuned for more on this in the future!

The address continued on to highlight maintaining the states triple-A bond rating by allocating $20 million more than required to pay down long-term liabilities. Only five states fully tax Social Security retirement benefits; the governor wants to make that four states by phasing in the elimination of this tax on low and moderate income retirees. A $1 million housing package was introduced to increase efforts for down payment assistance and renovate existing housing. $500,000 would be invested in technical education to purchase equipment and expand adult career and technical education. Providing career counseling to those in recovery in response to the opiate crisis is key to helping those in need. I could continue to go on, but I will stop here.

The proposed budget has a lot of positives that I look forward to working on this session!

SEN. CAROLYN BRANAGAN

The budget adjustment bill comes to the legislature every year, early in the session.  It is one of several annual bills on which the legislature must act. The state fiscal year starts July 1 and ends June 30. When legislators start its session in January, at the mid point in the state fiscal year,  it is easy to get a good picture which of our appropriations are on target and which ones need to be adjusted to make it through the rest of the year. We try to get the amounts needed correct at the start of the fiscal year, but if for some reason our estimates are not right, the budget adjustment gives us an opportunity to correct the budget.

The $29 million budget gap discovered in July was filled with the unexpected $16 million from the corporate income tax and the governor’s $13 million in recessions. 

State revenues are looking a little brighter right now than in the early months of the fiscal year, by $8 million, so there is no need to use the $5 million-plus currently in the corporate income tax unexpected revenue fund.

There were some additional unexpected revenues and  underspendings including debt service money of $6 million, ed fund savings of $1.5 million, Medicaid reductions of $31 million, unspent childcare subsidies of $515,000 and other smaller savings all together totaling over $3 million.

The fiscal 2019 budget was approved last May totaling $5.825 billion. At this point in early February, it looks like the state can complete its obligations for the fiscal year using slightly less money, $5.769 billion. 

If you would like more information on any budget figures, contact me at cbranagan@leg.state.vt.us. I want to hear from you.