As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, the group of legislators who write the state budget or “Big Bill,” I have spent the first three months of the 2019 legislative session taking part in constructing the bill that will determine the spending for Fiscal Year 2020. It was a new assignment for me in Montpelier, one that afforded me a close-up look at how a group of 11 people from different areas of Vermont and different political parties spend five days a week for almost three months looking closely at proposed State spending and working to ensure that funding for the many agencies and departments of State government is equitable and will enable residents of Vermont to benefit from that funding.
In my past almost-18 years in the Legislature, I have gone to the House chamber to listen to the members of Appropriations Committee present the budget, knowing I will spend the next three hours hearing how and why the State of Vermont intends to use billions of dollars to fund the operations of the State. For most legislators, those three hours of hearing numbers can be tedious, and quite frankly, boring. This year I was one of the presenters of the Big Bill, and it made me understand and appreciate how hard 11 legislators work to bring fairness in the spending of every dollar of State funds.
This year’s $6.1 billion Big Bill, as presented by the House, continues to focus on strengthening the State’s fiscal position. The bill uses ongoing funds for ongoing expenditures and reduces pressure on FY 2021 by continuing to build the State’s reserve funds. The overall proposed budget calls for a 2.6% increase in State spending which includes the General Fund, all other State funds, and Federal funds. The General Fund, the money that Vermonters pay for with their taxes, is $1,646,453,793, up 3.9%, but $22.2 million of that amount is due to the necessity of continued funding of the Teachers Retirement Funding program. That 3.9% General Fund growth rate in FY 2020 would be 2.6% without the retirement funding. Other significant amounts included in the budget include $1,721,769,204 in the education fund, $2,040,533,736 in Federal funds, and $1,585,102,671 in Global Commitment funds (Medicare and Medicaid).
Highlights of the House of Representatives FY 2020 budget include spending on: key actions and funding for vulnerable Vermonters including substance use disorders/mental health; funding for aging and disabilities programs; economic development; housing; child care; Climate Commission initiatives; and higher education.
If you want to learn more about the FY2020 budget, go to the Vermont General Assembly website, legislature.vermont.gov. Click on the Joint Fiscal Office box, click on “Appropriations & Budget,” then on FY 2020 Resources, and then on the FY 2020 House Budget Web Report. Be prepared to spend a few hours pouring though lots of numbers. If you have specific budget questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at email@example.com. If you have other questions about what is happening in Montpelier, email me or call me at 878-3514 and leave a message.