Will Douglas veto the budget?

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(Host) Will Governor Jim Douglas veto the state budget and call lawmakers back to the Statehouse for a special session?

Douglas says he won’t have to do that if Democratic leaders agree to some additional budget cuts in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the Democrats plan to travel around the state to win public approval for their budget plan.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Douglas says he’s disappointed that lawmakers were unwilling to make further compromises to the budget. 

He argues that the plan doesn’t cut enough money from state programs and it raises too much new tax revenue in the form of higher tobacco and alcohol taxes and by placing limits on capital gains deductions and income tax deductions.

(Douglas) "It raises taxes, from the income tax by about $7 million, some other taxes in the General Fund, we are going to face a property tax increase regardless of what’s in the budget, gas tax may well go up if I approve the Transportation bill. So, the cost of living in our state is going to rise and we have to do what we can to minimize that to live within our means to make some difficult choices."

Douglas wants to follow a strategy he used four years ago. At that time, he strongly opposed a budget provision dealing with the Vermont State College system and he threatened to veto the entire budget.

Then he persuaded lawmakers to come back to the Statehouse in a special session to remove the provision from the bill – and as a result he never had to officially veto the budget:

(Douglas) "I really think it’s important to continue the discussion to see if we can find some common ground and compromise as Vermonters expect us to do."

Senate President Peter Shumlin thinks Douglas should sign the budget because it includes tough program reductions, some tax increases and an income tax cut for all Vermonters:

(Shumlin) "The Speaker and I feel very strongly that this is a balanced plan. Everybody’s given and this should become law and we’re going to do everything in our power to convince the governor that this is the best way out of this economic mess – let’s come back next January and keep chipping away."

And Shumlin is confident that he can persuade Democrats who voted against the budget to support an effort to override a gubernatorial veto:

(Shumlin) "Were the governor to veto this bill I have many, many Democrats who said to me ‘I don’t like the cuts that we’re making, I’m not willing to vote for it now but I know that if we come back the choices will be worse. It will look more like the governor’s wish and I will vote to override’.  So it’s a high risk gamble for the governor."

Any special session would have to be held by the end of June because the state’s new fiscal year begins on July first.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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