REP. MAUREEN DAKIN
Highlights of the last few weeks. A new education funding bill. A new special education delivery system. Full tax exemption of Social Security benefits. Measures that will lower property taxes for some and raise income taxes for the top tier. Gun safety measures. A $5.8 billion budget. A capital bill of $85,464,039. The legislature’s been busy the last few weeks!
The day before I voted for gun safety legislation, I posted my reasoning on my legislative update Facebook page. It’s too lengthy to print here as the Sun allows only 450 words so I urge you to visit my page. Thanks to everyone who contacted me. Most communications were courteous and most argued legitimate points.
As my committee is Appropriations I’ll write about the budget. The budget provides a balanced budget within existing revenues. This is the second consecutive budget where one-year growth rate is below five-year average general fund spending rate. All state funds spending of 1.2 percent is below the FY 2018 forecasted gross state product rate of 3.7 percent and below the governor’s growth rate target of 2.36 percent. Approximately 35 percent of the budget is federal funds. Some budgets like the transportation budget are primarily federal funds.
The House reinstated several cuts that the Governor proposed. We restored $2 million to fully fund developmental disabilities services caseload projected needs. We fully fund the childcare subsidy at federal poverty levels in income levels and maintain the grant program for providers with high percentage of infants and toddlers and subsidy clients. (I had hoped to do more in childcare areas of the budget.)
Funds the Think Vermont initiative put forth from the Commerce and Economic Development Committee. With that committee’s recommendation we did not fund the Governor’s Think VT Move initiative, which aimed at getting people to return to or move to Vermont. The concepts were intriguing, but with no defined plan the $3M expenditure was premature.
The windfall of $28 million from a tobacco settlement that landed in our laps two days before the budget passed from committee was wisely invested. The governor wanted to use half for addressing the opioid crisis which we agreed to. We put $10 million toward teachers retirement to help pay down the unfunded liability. Investing $10 million now saves taxpayers about $30 million by 2038.
The budget sits in the Senate now and changes will be made. After reconciliation with the House the governor can approve or veto. There are several bills the governor has said he has concerns with because they have some fee or tax attached. If they pass he’ll veto, sign or let take effect without his signature. June 13 has been set aside for a veto session – just in case!
Stay tuned …