Week 4 of the Legislative session saw Governor Scott’s budget address and the unanimous passage (141-0) of the budget adjustment bill in the House.
The budget is crafted for each fiscal year many months in advance using projected revenues and expenses. During the fiscal year the actual revenues and expenses are tracked to determine how they are performing against projections. Since revenues fluctuate and unanticipated expenses occur, we use this mid-year system to re-align the budget with the underlying goal to always have a balanced budget at year’s end.
Separate from this budget adjustment was Governor Scott’s budget address for the next fiscal year. Much of his address focused on Education, Healthcare/Human Services and Housing/Workforce Development. In the latter he proposed a $35m housing bond to increase our housing stock while increasing funding for economic development at both the state and municipal levels. In healthcare/human services he emphasized continued focus on our opioid crisis by increasing funding to the St Albans treatment center by $1m, increasing the number of treatment providers and providing additional funding to the guardian ad litem program. Funding would come from a reduction in payments to hospitals, changes to how the state plays on Vermont Health Connect and unclear savings in the Agency of Human Services. His education proposal has since gotten the most press and included additional funding for pre-k, higher education and VT National Guard continued education. Savings to pay for this additional funding and other changes to the education fund would come by mandating school boards level fund their budget and teachers pay 20% of their healthcare benefits. He recommended a move to statewide school budget voting on May 23th to allow time from school boards to make changes to their budgets. Committees are hearing testimony on his proposals with more information to come.
In the House Healthcare Committee we continue to learn about our physical and mental health systems. With 6 new members to the committee, the addition of mental health to our jurisdiction and the complexity of these two systems, the learning curve is steep. Several healthcare related bills have been assigned to our committee. As a new member I’m interested in seeing the full process of a bill’s trajectory first hand. We also continue to watch what is happening in DC around the Affordable Care Act and the potential effects to Vermonters.