Dear Constituents –
The story of the week is budgets. To be specific, budgets that go far beyond a fiscally conservative Governor’s recommended spending that raised no new taxes or fees to add approximately 70 new state government positions and a 12% increase in appropriations to the Big Bill, H.494 ; an increase of $22.2M, which is a 20% increase, in DMV fees to the Transportation Bill, H.479, (not typically where these fees would be authorized and not requested by the DMV) ; and a Capital Bill, H.493, that aims to keep costs down but has to address ballooning deferred maintenance needs across State-owned assets. On Thursday, in the midst of long days spent on the House Floor, the Republican Caucus (Representatives and Senators) held a press conference laying out objections to the overspending of money that isn’t there, the raising of fees during a time of high inflation and an influx of federal funds, and the apparent disregard for Vermonters who are struggling to make ends meet. While there are many worthy line items in the Budget and Transportation Bills (housing, education and workforce development, mental health, food insecurity, and infrastructure projects), the Republican Caucus made a statement by voting against both of these bills on the grounds of fiscal irresponsibility. To spend upwards of $65M above and beyond the budget that the Governor built with care and consideration for all Vermonters was a shock and a disappointment to my constituents. Also included in this budget is an additional $115M allocated for one-time uses that were not included in the Governor’s recommend, obligating the State for ongoing funding, and there was no money left in reserve to use in the future for matching funds to draw down federal grants, which is particularly concerning. On top of last week’s proposed spending on H.66 Paid Family Medical Leave ($118M), and H.165 Universal School Meals ($30M), I just don’t know where all of this money will come from ! By tacking on $22M in increased DMV fees to an otherwise conservatively crafted Transportation Bill, and another $7M in increased professional licensing fees, I have the sinking feeling that the way we will pay for this new budget is by increasing regressive fees that disproportionately affect the most vulnerable Vermonters. And this does not even begin to address the estimated $500M that S.5 the Affordable Heat Act and various childcare proposals will cost taxpayers in the near future.
In Committee business, we have started learning about the crisis in the Emergency Communications system, Ranked Choice Voting, and we completed several amendments to municipal charters. As a Dillon’s Rule State, any time a municipality wants to make a change to their charter, they have to seek permission from the Legislature by having that change go through the bill-making process, which originates in the House Government Operations & Military Affairs Committee.
Thank you for your questions and concerns at [email protected]
Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5