Message from Montpelier: April 27

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Life on the Appropriations Committee. What do we do once the budget has passed the House?

The committee is unique in some ways. We’re excused by the speaker from being on the floor when the House is in session because of time constraints to build the budget and the workload. However, we were called to the floor for roll calls. Secondly, we have permission, again by the speaker, to meet on Mondays (The legislature generally meets Tuesday – Friday.) FYI, when the committee works on Mondays, we receive meal allowance and mileage but not pay.

We worked on budget adjustment and the new budget for 12 weeks. My assigned sections to delve into and make recommendations to the full committee were the attorney general, treasurer, lieutenant governor, teachers’ retirement, Commission on Women, Human Rights Commission, Vermont Symphony, Retired Senior Volunteer Program and the Department of Innovation and Information. DII was just elevated to agency status as a result of a governor’s executive order. As a new member of the committee, my assignments were pretty straightforward.

We’ve been busy these last three weeks. When committees pass bills, they often carry some appropriation so it gets referred to us to determine the cost and if money is available.

Right now it’s difficult to assess one policy against another since the budget has passed and the priorities have been set. But, nothing is truly final in Montpelier until the budget passes on the last day. Forces outside the committee including leadership, the administration and advocates have great influence. It can be frustrating.

For example, Friday a bill from the Judiciary Committee was referred to us. The estimated cost to implement the policy was around $300,000. If this was considered as part of our budget process, I might have found it doable. Or if I’d known that somewhere $300,000 could be found, I might have wanted to use it another way! Since there were other issues with the bill, it’ll be recommitted to the Judiciary – for now.

We received a miscellaneous education bill because a work group was being established. We had to determine the group’s cost and if money was available, albeit a small sum, to pay per diems for some members. As we reviewed the bill, we noted there was a section that potentially impacted the education fund, so it was set aside until a fiscal analysis was done.

We also started work on the FY19 budget by delving into areas where a lot of questions arose this year.

The rest of the session we’ll be reconciling differences between the House and Senate budgets with an expected adjournment late in the first week of May.

Stay in touch!