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Vt. lawmakers prepare to deal with budget shortfall - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. lawmakers prepare to deal with budget shortfall

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

Two weeks ago, Gov. Peter Shumlin used his inaugural address to lay out his legislative priority: education.

Thursday, he'll stand before the House and Senate again, and explain how the state will pay for reforms as a $50 million-$70 million budget gap looms.

"Exactly what things are going to be cut and the impact on working Vermonters, on low-income Vermonters in particular, are of interest to Progressives," said Rep. Chris Pearson, P-Burlington.

"I'm looking for the governor to show us how we're going to get through this, what we're going to do for the future, so we don't have to raise a bunch of taxes," said Rep. Don Turner, R-Milton.

Wednesday, the state economist told legislators revenue projections are likely too rosy, widening the fiscal gap.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Tim Ashe says it's the fourth straight session where they'll need to do more with less.

"Whether we're looking at the sustainability of our education fund, our transportation revenues, health care financing-- across the board we know that the revenue streams of the past are no longer adequate for the future," said Ashe, D/P-Chittenden.

In his inaugural address, the only funding specifics the governor proposed-- re-routing tax-credit dollars to pay for universal pre-K-- drew mostly negative reviews. Legislators called it a great priority, but disagree with the funding mechanism.

"It'll be hard to decipher everything in just one budget address, but making sure that there's equity across the board, I think, is the overarching goal on all those issues," Ashe said.

Somehow, the governor will need to find a way to balance the budget while coping with a range of expenses from health reform, to a transportation budget on empty. With one day to go, he hasn't offered a glimpse publicly of how he'll get it done.

The House of Representatives did pass a budget amendment to cover a $5 million hole in the current budget Wednesday. That measure now heads to the Senate for debate.

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