Budget Vote

On Friday, the Vermont House passed a $1.5 billion dollar budget with support of Democrats, Progressives, Republicans, and Independents. With a $113 million shortfall in the budget, Curt and I worked with our friends on the Appropriations Committee to fully fund or not cut programs that low income Vermonters are dependent on. While we were unable to fund certain programs as much as we wanted, on balance we had many successes. We raised $35 million by capping income tax deduction, which mainly impacts high-income earners. It is with this money that we could actually increase or expand the following:

·$31 million in the expansion of Medicaid eligibility through the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare.

·$1.2 million INCREASE in wages for direct care workers in developmental services from their collective bargaining agreement.

·$1.4 million in EXPANDED child care for people transitioning out of Reach Up and into Reach Ahead.

·$1.8 million INCREASE in Choices for Care Home and community based caseload to help our care for our seniors.

·27 positions authorized in budget adjustment for child protection in the Department of Children and Families.

·$6 million INCREASE in addiction treatment to address the opiate epidemic. The budget fully annualized funding of Pathways and Soteria House for mental health treatment.

We were also able to maintain level funding (same appropriation as last year) for VSAC, State Colleges, and UVM. This includes funding for the Community High School of Vermont. There were also some victories for our State Employees:

·Full funding of the Vermont Veterans’ Home
·The permanent placement of a VSEA member on the Vermont Veterans’ Home Board of Trustees (removal of a sunset provision limiting term to one year);
·Funding of 911 Emergency Dispatch Centers thru September and the establishment of a process to involve more stakeholders (including Dispatchers) in future decisions.
·Removal of a $500,000 cut to the Judiciary
·Omission of a proposal to implement an automatic contract re-opener and alter subjects of bargaining.

While we didn’t get everything we fought for, we voted for this budget because it was the strongest version we could get out of the House. As members of the Working Vermonters Caucus, we struggled with the strategy to vote against the revenue bill (voting against the $35 million cap on income tax deductions). While we want to have an even more progressive income tax, we thought the more likely outcome of the strategy would be a less progressive tax, raising less money and resulting in more budget cuts.

The budget will now head to the Senate. When the Senate completes its work and votes on the budget it will then go to a conference committee with three members from the House and three from the Senate.

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