The County Courier newspaper of Enosburg Falls VT is sponsoring a weekly candidate’s Q & A on relevant topics.
Here is this week’s question and my response:
Q: Unless there is an unprecedented federal bailout, the State of Vermont is looking at a deficit of about $300 million due to the pandemic. How would you like to see the legislature close the budget gap, and should Vermont run a deficit for 2021 (as the Federal Government has for years) in order to get through the response process of the coronavirus and get to better times?
A. The Administration’s budget was unveiled today, and It was confirmed that the deficit is at $180 million, rather than the expected $300 million, greatly helped by strong tax revenues from 2019 earnings and targeted belt-tightening and reallocation of funds across State government. It is heartening to say that this was done without major cuts to important programs for Vermonters in need, and some new programs will be implemented using the remainder of CARES Act funds and one-time monies. Those programs include more equitable stimulus money for previously ineligible recipients, a much-needed increase in childcare programs as parents return to the workforce, expanded aid to businesses hit by economic hardship, and a continuation of additional unemployment benefits. My gratitude goes to the Administration for their hard work keeping Vermont’s economy stabilized while attending to the needs of the most vulnerable populations without plunging the State into greater debt. As we move forward, every Legislative committee must take a hard look at the programs and services that they mandate and weigh the true benefits with the costs of maintaining them. At best, certain duplicative or obsolete programming must be eliminated and every program must undergo scrutiny and re-design to become the most efficient it can be for the price tag. I look forward to being a part of this difficult yet rewarding work as the fallout is projected to continue into FY’22 and ‘23, and I encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting the framework of the Governor’s budget.