Legislative Leaders Reflect On Session

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(Host) Democratic Legislative leaders say they’re very pleased with the results of this year’s session.

And, as VPRs Bob Kinzel reports, they’re open to the possibility of raising taxes next year if Vermont faces some big federal budget cuts.

(Kinzel) Both Senate President John Campbell and House Speaker Shap Smith describe the recently completed session as one where "lofty goals were achieved."

Those goals include closing a $176 million projected budget gap without raising broad based taxes, passing a bill that will overhaul the state’s health care system, and expanding broadband and cell phone service to every part of Vermont by 2013.

Campbell says he’s anticipating more tough budget decisions next year and he’s open to the possibility of raising taxes even though 2012 is an election year.

(Campbell) "If there were a significant shortfall and the only answer would be draconian types of cuts then I say yea it’s probably a very strong likelihood."

(Kinzel) Smith says his biggest disappointment of the session was the failure to adopt some of the income tax recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Tax Commission:

(Smith) "I still believe that if possible we ought to put Vermont on the same footing as the states around us and have as our tax base adjusted gross income not taxable income."

(Kinzel) And Smith says he also likes the commission’s plan to expand the sales tax to cover most services – a move that would allow the state to cut the sales tax rate perhaps in half.

(Smith) "I think that is a great idea I don’t think we have as much consensus around that issue as we do on adjusted gross income I think there’s still more to get people to buy in on that point."

(Kinzel) Both leaders discussed their relationship with Governor Peter Shumlin – who previously served as Senate President. Campbell said the change took some getting used to.

(Campbell) "At the very beginning it was very difficult because here it is it goes from your friend your colleague to now the governor…there’s also some protocol that goes along with that office."

(Kinzel) And Smith echoed that sentiment.

(Smith) "The roles really shifted and that was a difficult transition to some degree."

(Kinzel) Smith says lawmakers might be called back into a special session this fall if Congress adopts a federal budget that slashes spending on a number of state programs but he says it’s unlikely that Congress will act before the end of the year.

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

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