With little discussion and a final agreement on spending reductions, money transfers and use of one-time revenues from the Federal Government, Vermont’s $4.7 billion budget was balanced and delivered quicker than many can remember in recent sessions. In fact, eleventh hour bargaining was almost non-existent this session; showing that the democratically controlled legislature had set and stayed their course to an early adjournment. However, because $60 million of Vermont’s budget does depend on federal assistance legislators left Montpelier somewhat skeptical of the next round of federal cuts, and therefore have tentatively scheduled a special session for October 18th in the event Vermont is affected.
This year’s budget included a number of cuts across the board. While there has been little racket about the $87 million in cuts, decision makers have failed to inform Vermonters that there will be major long term impacts felt across the state. A $23 million reduction in General Fund transfers to the Education Fund will certainly result in property tax increases in years to come. Postponing the repayment of $4.1 million in interest to the federal government for unemployment insurance will only compound additional interest to be paid back two-fold in the following years. Over $38 million in cuts to programs run by the Agency of Human Resources will eliminate essential services to Vermonters that need them most, and increasing taxes on health care providers by $24 million in H.436, this year’s Miscellaneous Tax Bill, will be passed on to employers and employees through increased premiums resulting in higher health care costs at a time when one of the Governor’s top priorities is to reduce health care costs.