Douglas faces budget challenges

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says meeting the budget needs of the state without increasing taxes will be one of the biggest challenges he faces in the coming year.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Earlier this fall, Douglas asked most departments of state government to draft budget proposals for the next fiscal year that include a two percent cut in spending.

Now as the governor prepares to put together his budget for the Legislature to review in January, Douglas thinks some departments will have to face even larger cutbacks.

That’s because the governor wants to exempt some programs from the budget cuts, like higher education, while there are other departments, like Corrections, where Douglas says the state must be ready to increase spending:

(Douglas) “I don’t know exactly what kind of reductions we’ll need at this point to be honest they could be even greater we’ve got some challenges that we need to address in our Corrections Department for example the mental Hospital at Waterbury is we think moving towards re-certification but we’re not sure yet and whether its re-certified or not we need to think about the future of that institution we’ve got a large Medicaid deficit we have priorities that I’ve established and to which I’m committed the clean and clear action plan, higher education, economic development public safety so it’s going to be a challenging budget year.”

(Kinzel) Despite these difficulties, Douglas says he’s committed to balancing the budget without increasing taxes:

(Douglas) “Absolutely the tax burden in Vermont is quite high according to a recent survey it’s twelfth highest in the nation in overall state and local tax burden we need to be competitive and that means not raising the overall burden of taxation.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says he hopes to work constructively with the Democratic majorities in both the House and the Senate on many of his key budget priorities.

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

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