(Host) The Douglas administration and legislative leaders have been unable to agree on a package of cuts to the new state budget.
But both sides are hoping that the framework for a consensus can be reached in the next week or two.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) No one thought cutting the new state budget by as much as $30 million was going to be easy, but the effort is turning out to be more difficult than many people thought it would be.
The Legislative Joint Fiscal Committee was scheduled on Tuesday to review and then vote on a plan proposed by the Douglas Administration. But that meeting has been postponed.
Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Susan Bartlett says some of the cuts represent key changes in state policy and she wants other lawmakers to have an opportunity to review them.
(Bartlett) “We don’t want to work in a vacuum from the rest of the Legislature and to say here are things that are priorities to the Legislature and here are things that are priorities to the administration. OK, how do we find a balance in reducing those."
(Kinzel) Administration Secretary Mike Smith says both sides need more time to find a consensus.
(Smith) “I think that’s the better way to make progress than to battle it out. I don’t think Vermonters want to see that. And hopefully we can avoid that."
(Kinzel) Part of the problem can be seen in the debate over how to deal with an $8 million revenue shortfall in the Transportation Fund.
The Douglas administration wants to transfer $4 million from the General Fund over to the Transportation Fund to ease these financial problems. But Senator Bartlett opposes this transfer because it means further cuts in the General Fund.
As a result, Bartlett says the Transportation
Fund faces some significant cuts.
(Bartlett) “And that can be part of where we’re off into some pretty serious policy issues that we question that the Joint Fiscal Committee has authority to get into."
(Kinzel) Secretary Smith says he’s still pushing for a transfer because, otherwise, the transportation cuts will be devastating.
(Smith) “$8 million would have such a huge impact that it would have a very, very negative impact on the Transportation Budget – disproportionate to any other reduction that we’re seeing out there."
(Kinzel) Bartlett and Smith do agree that this isn’t the time to tap into the state’s rainy day budget fund. They say the state may face additional revenue problems in the coming months and that it’s premature to use the fund at this time.
For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.