It's quiet at Vermont capitol Tuesday, as a few scattered voices echo through the nearly-empty halls. By Wednesday morning, the building will be teeming as the year's legislative session opens.
"We have a lot of challenges ahead of us right now and the only way we're going to accomplish them in a way that's fitting for Vermont is if we do it together," said Sen. John Campbell, D-Vt. President Pro Tem.
This year lawmakers are expected to wrangle with social issues from death with dignity/physician-assisted suicide to marijuana decriminalization, but say they can't allow side issues to distract from putting together the next state budget, one projected to come up $50 million-$70 million short.
"First thing, of course, is the budget," Campbell said.
The House Appropriations Committee began work patching a nearly $4 million gap in the current budget passed last year. That requires only minor moves, but Finance and Management Commissioner Jim Reardon foresees drastic changes if a funding crisis is to be averted in the upcoming budget:
Debt payments are rising, as are worker wages
Human service needs are expected to keep ballooning unless addressed
And more money must be transferred from the general fund to the education fund.
In previous years, the legislative bodies have relied on one-time federal dollars in order to balance the book; however experts say that well is running dry.
"We will balance it without raising broad-based taxes," Reardon said.
Reardon says more detail can't be revealed until after the governor's Jan. 24 budget address. But he says they're relying on better tax revenue and cuts-- though where he can't say-- in order to balance an even bigger budget.
The Vt. Transportation Agency is also looking at a $150 million shortfall in the coming budget. Reardon says there's no way to cover all of that, but smart action can get the state on the right path to address that growing deficit.
Friday, March 7 2014 5:57 PM EST2014-03-07 22:57:02 GMT
Williston Police say, the powder was from a generic prescription medication. They say, the man was from Burlington and had the paperwork in his pocket with his medicine and that's how it got on there. More >>
Williston Police say, the powder was from a generic prescription medication. They say, the man was from Burlington and had the paperwork in his pocket with his medicine and that's how it got on there.More >>
Friday, March 7 2014 4:25 PM EST2014-03-07 21:25:27 GMT
A threat canceled all after-school activities in the Colchester School District Friday. The superintendent sent out an alert to parents saying even with enhanced security measures, the district considersMore >>
A threat canceled all after-school activities in the Colchester School District Friday.More >>
Friday, March 7 2014 10:42 AM EST2014-03-07 15:42:34 GMT
The state of Vermont released new evidence in hopes of keeping a Manchester woman behind bars. Fifty-year-old Patricia Kane was arrested on charges of interfering with the custody of a minor in January.More >>
The state of Vermont released new evidence in hopes of keeping a Manchester woman behind bars.More >>
Friday, March 7 2014 4:38 PM EST2014-03-07 21:38:40 GMT
A scare for a homeowner in Burlington Friday afternoon who walked in on a burglary. Police say the woman found a man inside her house on North Avenue. He ran off. He's described as a younger white man,More >>
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Friday, March 7 2014 12:27 PM EST2014-03-07 17:27:43 GMT
Investigators say a late-night fire at the old Burlington Free Press building was an act of arson. A fire alarm went off in the College Street property at 11:20 p.m. Thursday. Fire crews found a smallMore >>
Investigators say a late-night fire at the old Burlington Free Press building was an act of arson.More >>