Gov. Shumlin budget focuses on welfare reform - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Gov. Shumlin budget focuses on welfare reform

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"As I begin my second term, the picture is brighter," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

Thursday, Shumlin delivered his plan to tackle reforms to education, welfare benefits, health costs, transportation, and clean energy, while closing a $70 million budget gap.

"It is a budget that matches Montpelier's appetite for spending with Vermonters' ability to pay," Shumlin said.

Shumlin wants to repurpose nearly $17 million of the $26 million Vermont spends supplementing the Federal Earned Income Tax in order to quintuple child care subsidies. He says the state will still have one of the most generous tax credit contributions, and eliminate what he calls the biggest obstacle to parents re-entering the workforce.

"It is neither compassionate nor prudent to continue a system in which struggling Vermonters are financially punished for getting off government assistance," the governor said.

While Shumlin often calls on Vermont to lead the country, he says the state needs to follow when it comes to social service reform. The Green Mountain State is the only state that does not place time or dollar limits on Reach Up Services. By creating a five-year limit, he says the state can save cash and provide a hand up rather than a handout.

Transportation funds are running on empty, as Vermonters drive less in more fuel efficient vehicles.

Shumlin says rail funding for Western Vermont needs to be fast-tracked, but the agency budget is projected to run $240 million in the red over the next five years.

"It is a question of repairing and refilling a leaky bucket," he said.

Shumlin says the agency must raise an additional $35 million, so as not to miss out on matching federal funds, but leaves the how to the Legislature. Raising the gas tax or registration fees appear the most realistic choices from a short list of options.

On a day where highs sat near 0 degrees, Shumlin touted redoubled weatherization efforts and clean energy initiatives. To pay he proposes taxing break-open tickets-- popular. largely unregulated gambling operations-- at a rate of 10 percent, generating about $17 million.

"We can build the best health care system in America," Shumlin said.

Shumlin wants to send $25 million in checks to private insurers shortchanged by Medicaid, lowering premiums for residents. A report that came out Thursday from state officials indicates moving toward single-payer will save residents money. The report highlights likely costs and possible funding sources, but leaves the tough political questions to the politicians. Click here to read the Health Care Reform Financing Plan 2014.

In order to balance the budget while increasing it, Shumlin relies in large part on carry forward figures from last year and this current fiscal year, totaling more than $30 million. An additional $26 million will come from special and federal funds.

Kristin Carlson got reaction to the speech from legislators. Watch the video for more.

Click here to read the governor's full speech.

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