House Speaker Will Likely Support Program Cuts

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(Host) House Speaker Shap Smith says it’s likely he’ll support cuts in some programs in order to balance next year’s budget.

Smith says it’s not possible to close a $150 million dollar budget gap without reducing some services.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The $150 million projected budget gap is expected to influence the Legislature’s debate on a number of key issues.

In about ten days, Governor Jim Douglas is scheduled to deliver his Budget Address to the Legislature – Douglas says he’ll be calling for cuts in a number of important state services to help close that budget gap.

Speaking on VPR’s Vermont Edition, House Speaker Shap Smith said lawmakers will carefully review the Governor’s recommended cuts and Smith says it’s likely that some of them will have to be adopted:

(Smith) "I think they are going to be very difficult choices and they’re going to affect people, they’re going to affect Vermonters. It’s going to mean that some people are going to have less access to health care. Probably it’s going to mean that we’re going to have fewer dollars available for perhaps weatherization programs or other areas."

(Kinzel) And Smith says it’s impossible to deal with a budget gap as large as $150 million without affecting some critical services:

(Smith) "150 million dollars means that people who are being helped out now – say a couple who maybe one of them works at a local hotel or motel and another works at a local auto body shop – they both work full time. But to work full time they actually get a little bit of help for child care and it may mean that we might not be able to pay for as much help."

(Kinzel) Smith says he expects the entire budget debate to generate an important discussion about the appropriate role of state government in the future: 

(Smith) "There really is going to be I think a question about what is it that is our obligation as state government and what can we afford to do and what do people want us to do within those confines and that’s the difficulty that we face."

(Kinzel) At this time, Smith says he’s committed to solving the state’s budget problem without raising taxes.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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