Legislative Leaders Will Review Proposed Cuts Before Considering New Taxes

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(Host) Key legislative leaders say they need to conduct a thorough review of Governor Shumlin’s budget proposal before they consider raising new taxes to offset some of the Governor’s most drastic cuts.

But they say it’s likely that some of those cuts will be restored by the House and Senate Appropriations committees.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The Governor’s proposed budget calls for millions of dollars in cuts in a variety of Human Service Agency programs because many of these programs have been funded in previous years using federal stimulus money.  But now that federal money is gone.

Speaking on VPR’s Vermont Edition, House Appropriations chairwoman Martha Heath said her committee plans a line by line review of the budget and she won’t be surprised if her panel makes some changes to the Governor’s plan.

(Heath) "I think there will be a lot of interest in trying to either look for creative ways for the cuts to be implemented or to find our money in other parts of the budget so that the cuts don’t have to be made – it’s the process we go through and I think some of these programs are highly valued by people on my committee and people in the Legislature."

(Kinzel) Senate Appropriations chairwoman Jane Kitchel says the governor’s cuts need to be examined to see if the reductions have a rippling effect on other parts of the state budget.

(Kitchel) "…Because a decision made in one place has impacts, whether we’re talking about the poorest Vermonters or many of the people who say we need less government – but in fact their parents might be having the benefit of their pharmacy assistance program. I think that sometimes these connections aren’t made either in the policy development realm or even within the realm of public opinion."

(Kinzel) Some lawmakers are calling for tax increases to offset the governor’s proposed cuts.  Heath says it’s much too earlier in the budget review process to rely on new revenue.

(Heath) "I certainly don’t think this is the time and I think we’ve proved in the past that we can often work our way through these difficult budgets and find ways to close gaps in ways that don’t hurt the people who most depend on government services."

(Kinzel) Both the House and Senate Appropriations committees plan to hold public hearings on the Governor’s budget proposal next month.

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

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