Symington says she’ll ask state workers for advice on cutting budget

Print More

(Host) House Speaker Gaye Symington plans to meet with members of the state employee’s union next week to look at ways to trim around $25 million from the state budget.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Next week, the legislature and the Douglas Administration will learn in painful detail how the economic downturn will affect state budget.

That’s when economists will present a consensus forecast for next year’s revenues.

But the scale of the problem is already known.

Officials predict they’ll have to trim $25 million from a General Fund budget of around $1 billion.

House Speaker Gaye Symington says she wants to learn from state employees what programs or services they think could be cut.

(Symington) “They’re out there every day delivering services to Vermonters and I know they have ideas and suggestions around where they see duplication and where we could be doing our work more effectively.”

(Dillon) Annie Noonan is the executive director of the Vermont State Employees Association.

She says the budget can be cut without any more reductions to the state workforce of about 8,000 people. She says state workers are already feeling the pinch of budget cuts. And she predicts the public will start to see the impact.

(Noonan) “By the end of 18 months we’ll be 700 positions down in state government just from what’s happening currently. So I think if the only reaction to a budget downturn is to cut positions, there will be more significant impacts to services to Vermonters above and beyond the impact of the job cuts we have now.”

(Dillon) The Douglas Administration says its plan so far doesn’t involve layoffs. Instead, positions are left vacant as people leave. Governor Douglas said this week that he hoped the additional cuts could be achieved without letting people go.

Symington said she’s looking for different ideas.

(Symington) “You can see what’s coming. You could say 2 percent across the board cuts. And I would like to see whether there aren’t other ways that we could be more thoughtful about putting together ways to save more money.”

(Dillon) Annie Noonan of the employees’ union says one idea may be to scale back some of the services that government agencies provide.

(Noonan) “For example, I know state police often wind up doing investigations with accidents that don’t involve injury. I’m not sure that that’s a good use of their resources. I know that they respond to house alarms for a lot of second home owners who build their McMansion up in Stowe and alarm the place and then a squirrel runs across the wire and we’ve got two troopers out to an alarm. Maybe that’s one of those things that says they should be dealing with a private security company.”

(Dillon) Symington will meet with the state employees on Monday. On Tuesday, lawmakers will find out precisely how much they’ll have to cut.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

Comments are closed.