(Host) The Dean administration says it will strongly oppose any effort by the Joint Fiscal Committee to use money from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to avoid difficult cuts in this year’s budget. But Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin says these funds may be needed to protect a number of critical Human Service programs.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) Later this week the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee will meet to consider an additional $5 million in cuts in this year’s budget. The cuts are part of a larger package designed to eliminate a $40 million revenue shortfall.
The committee is facing some difficult decisions including cuts in public safety programs, local town highway grants, the state’s pharmaceutical assistance program and several children’s health prevention programs. Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin says he opposes a number of these cuts and Shumlin says it makes more sense to tap into the state’s budget contingency fund, the so called Rainy Day Fund, than it does to cut essential services:
(Shumlin) I think we can balance this budget without doing it on the backs of the most vulnerable Vermonters. I do think there’s room for cuts in the budget. I’ve recommended some. I also think we should be looking at some of the Rainy Day Funds that are still available to us as we get closer and closer to the governor’s number.
(Kinzel) At this time there’s roughly $16 million in the General Fund’s rainy day account. Twenty-six million dollars was transferred from this fund last month to cover a revenue shortfall at the end of the 2002 fiscal year.
Administration Secretary Kathy Hoyt says the governor will strongly fight any effort to use the remaining Rainy Day Funds at this time because she thinks this money may be needed later in the fiscal year:
(Hoyt) “I really do not think it’s a good idea. We have the opportunity early in the fiscal year to make adjustments to end the fiscal year in the black. I believe that avoiding adjustments, that I know sometimes are hard to make, but avoiding them at this stage in the fiscal year and someone suggesting to use Rainy Day funds in their stead is a very poor approach.
(Kinzel) Hoyt says the administration will support a plan to restore funds for some of the targeted programs if lawmakers can reduce spending in other parts of the budget.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.