House Passes Budget, Upholds Program Cuts

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(Host) The House on Friday afternoon gave its final approval to next year’s budget bill. House members easily defeated several efforts to restore funds for several programs.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) After two days of debate, the House has given its approval to a spending plan for next year that appropriates nearly $900 millions for the operations of state government. The vote on the bill was 90 to 43.

The budget bill does not include proposed changes to the state’s Medicaid program. The House Appropriations Committee decided to leave out this piece of the budget in order to consider a Medicaid reform plan being proposed by the House Health and Welfare committee. It was a decision that did not sit well with many Democrats.

On Friday, the Republican majority in the House held together and defeated several amendments including :

· an effort to restore money in the state’s campaign finance reform fund

· a plan to block funds for the Circumferential Highway in Chittenden County

· a proposal to transfer funds to allow the State Police to hire eight new troopers.

House Appropriations Chairman Richard Westman said the budget plan was a fair way to establish funding priorities in a difficult fiscal time:

(Westman) “So, clearly pharmaceuticals, health care and the block grant are major concerns to us. This bill that’s before you does something directly about the block grant and sets the stage for us to do something about those other two items.”

But Burlington Progressive Steve Hingtgen said the budget plan unfairly targeted working people across the state:

(Hingtgen) “If you read the details of the budget, you see who pays: property taxpayers pay, disabled Vermonters pay, low-income Vermonters pay. That’s who pays for this budget. There is pain in this budget and the pain is not even across the board.”

The full House is expected to consider a Medicaid reform plan in about two weeks.

The budget passed on Friday now goes to the Senate for its consideration and it is likely that the Senate will make a number of policy changes to the legislation.

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

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