Administration to Cut $35 Million from State Budget

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(Host) The Dean administration is drafting a plan to cut as much as $35 million from the state budget that will go into effect on July 1. The governor hopes it won’t be necessary to lay off any state workers but he says it’s an option that must be explored. The administration has also just implemented a hiring freeze for all departments of state government.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) There’s no doubt that when the state begins its new fiscal year next week, the new state budget will be out of balance right from the start. This will happen because the state is expected to finish the current fiscal year with roughly a $25 million deficit and this means that revenue projections for the new fiscal year are too high.

When the Legislature passed the budget bill earlier this month, it gave the governor expanded authority to make budget cuts with the approval of the Joint Fiscal Committee. Dean is in the process of developing that plan and the governor says reducing the size of the state’s workforce is an option that may have to be considered:

(Dean) “But I really don’t want to have any layoffs if we can possibly avoid it. That is not a promise. I may very well get a visit from Kathy Hoyt and Sean Campbell in three weeks that say, ‘Governor, this is what we’ve got to do and it involves layoffs.’ But I’m going to try to avoid those at all costs.”

(Kinzel) The Vermont State Employees Association is working with the Dean administration on this issue. A strict hiring freeze has just been put into place and VSEA director Annie Noonan is hoping that the freeze will help take some pressure off of the budget problems:

(Noonan) “It’s a better way to go than either laying people off or bringing new people into state government and shortly laying them off. So there is a hiring freeze that went into effect at the end of last week and it’s a ‘hard freeze’ as they say, and that will hopefully avoid some more budget crisis and may be even avoid some of the layoffs.”

(Kinzel) Noonan says any layoffs would have to be consistent with the state’s contractual obligations and this means that workers with the least amount of seniority could be let go first.

The Dean administration will present its plan to reduce state spending to the Joint Fiscal Committee in about three weeks.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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