By Linda K. Myers
As you read this, the Vermont Legislature is in its seventh week of the current session with committees in the House and Senate starting to rev up action on bills, hoping to get decisions before the Legislature takes time off for Town Meeting week. As I noted in my last column, I am serving on the House Appropriations Committee this biennium. While the other House committees work on a variety of bills and issues during the session, my committee is focused on the State budget, known as “The Big Bill,” which is based on the budget prepared by the Governor.
Before we received the Governor’s budget, we started working on the Budget Adjustment Act (BAA), legislation that takes a look at the FY2019 budget and, with one half of the fiscal year already over, determines what changes need to be made in funding to keep the State fiscally solvent until June 30. The House voted unanimously on the House BAA, H.97, and sent it to the Senate. The Senate made changes to the House version and my committee is seeing if we will come to agreement with the Senate.
However, as soon as the BAA left our committee we started crafting the FY2020 budget. We have been reviewing the narrative and numbers in the Governor’s budget (which totals 1088 pages), interviewing all agencies of the administration. We work five full days a week on the numbers and language of the budget, with a deadline of March 22 (crossover) to have the budget ready to move over to the Senate. Money bills that have to pass in this session must move to the other chamber by that date.
My main focus in the FY2020 budget is the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD). I am looking at the proposed funding for the administration of the agency as well as state economic development, housing and community development, tourism and marketing, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the Vermont Council on the Arts, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the Vermont Historical Society, and the Vermont Humanities Council. I am learning a lot about these departments and the cost of maintaining services to Vermonters, while determining what affect the requests in the budget will have on taxpayers.
Serving on Appropriations is a change from my 17 previous years in the Legislature where I worked on policy. I have commented to my fellow legislators that “for many years I worked with words, but now I am working with numbers.” That said, I find the work fascinating.
If you have questions about what is happening in Montpelier, call me at 878-3514 and leave a message, or email me at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. I will get back to you as soon as I can.