Michael Giangrecto, Professor of Education at UVM is providing our committee an important look into special education in Vermont. Learn more here: http://www.uvm.edu/~cdci/archives/mgiangre/
Last week the Vermont House passed the budget, the shore land protection bill, the tax bill, school lunch legislation, and a current use bill. All of this is important legislation and represents good work and compromise. I look forward to sharing information about each of these bills, starting this evening with this year’s budget. Below you will will find Representative Martha Heath’s speech to the House introductory comments which provide some of this year’s struggles and priorities (Rep. Heath is the Chair of House Appropriations):
Preparation of the FY14 budget required, for the seventh year in a row, addressing a gap between available resources and estimated expenditures. While the nation is easing its way out of the Great Recession, revenues for the state of Vermont have just returned to 2008 levels. Finding the right balance between maintaining necessary services while making investments for the future was the challenge my committee faced.
The budget before you today spends less than what was proposed by the administration and leaves $9M in reserves. This is a responsible course of action. Federal sequestration will impact Vermonters in many arenas, from the military to education, and we will have to evaluate those new needs. Putting money aside makes sense both for addressing these potential needs and for keeping the state on a more financially sustainable path.
This budget also makes important investments. It addresses the Medicaid cost shift by increasing provider reimbursement by 3%. This benefits hospitals and doctors as well as our VNAs, Designated Agencies and others that serve the developmental service, mental health and choices for care populations. Language in the bill directs insurance companies to acknowledge this change in their rates, thus lowering health insurance rate increases from what they would otherwise be. This should directly impact Vermonters who purchase private insurance. We’ve eased the transition for Vermonters moving from Catamount and VHAP into the Exchange by providing premium and cost sharing subsidies in the amounts recommended by our Healthcare Committee. For the first time we are appropriating dollars for LIHEAP in our base budget, reluctantly recognizing that what was for many, many years a federal responsibility must now be partially paid for by the state.
While we weren’t able to do all that the administration proposed in the area of childcare, the budget does change the fee scale in the subsidy program to help parents return to work and move to self-sufficiency. Finally, we make an investment in higher education that will all be used to provide scholarships to students thus lowering the debt burden on young Vermonters while giving them better employment options. This is a critical investment in our future.
We’ve taken steps to both build jobs and get people back to work. By investing in the work of the Clean Energy Development Fund, working lands, and supporting employers hit by Irene we are building industries and jobs of which Vermont can be proud.
Mr. Speaker, the administration presented the legislature with a budget that combined investments in programs that we supported with sources of revenue that did not work. In working through this seemingly insurmountable challenge, your Appropriations Committee has worked hard to find the right balance between fiscal responsibility and making investments for the future.”
“Welcome to my new blog/news feed/website! This site was designed to provide a simple way for Vermonters to stay connected to what is going on Montpelier, VT. Stay tuned!”
Brian Campion Vermont State Representative
Many thanks to everyone in District 2-1 for returning me to Montpelier for a second term. I am grateful for your support, and I look forward to continuing our work together.