Vt. lawmakers get early start on state budget - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. lawmakers get early start on state budget

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Department of Finance and Management Commissioner Jim Reardon gave the House Appropriations Committee an overview of the governor's proposed budget changes Wednesday.

From now through Friday, they'll go through the line by line, item by item, as they look to close a $3.8 million shortfall.

"Overall, $3.8 million, which is an all funds number based on an approximately $5.3 billion dollar budget, is a very modest amount," Reardon said.

Reardon says usually that number is higher.

This year, early committee assignments for legislators allowed them to get a head start on adjustments in a year when the session starts late.

Human Services ran overbudget as the economy improved more slowly than anticipated, and social workers say a significantly higher caseload than expected. However, legislators overestimated Medicaid costs and can reallocate some of those dollars.

"There's a few kinda surprises, but nothing that I don't think we can overcome," said Rep. Robert Helm, R-Rutland.

Helm is the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee. He says he's still assessing the proposed adjustments, but doesn't see a problem. The real challenge will be tackling the next budget.

Many factors could still affect spending totals in the final six months of the remaining budget year. It's still uncertain how much the Federal Emergency Management Agency will give Vermont for Irene relief, and Reardon noted accounting irregularities in the finances of Fish and Wildlife. He did say he believes those abnormalities are errors, not fraud.

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