Vt. economists forecast better year ahead - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. economists forecast better year ahead

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Between jargon and arcane detail, those who work closest with Vermont's budget announced the general fund finished the fiscal year $26 million in the black. However, that doesn't mean economists are ready to lift future projections much higher.

"We go through the age-old analysis of what's sustainable, what came in that isn't repeatable," Vt. economist Jeff Carr said.

Boosts include a record ski season-- those hitting the slopes in Vermont accounted for 8 percent of all tickets nationwide, the highest mark ever for the Green Mountains.

Income taxes brought in more, especially from the wealthy.

And the housing market is slowly rebuilding across the state and country.

But economists say the good year should have been better.

"At this phase of the business cycle, we'd usually be looking at a much more vigorous recovery," Vt. economist Tom Kavet said.

Economists say the federal government's fiscal policies are to blame, imposing austerity and uncertainty rather than easing market concern.

Recent layoffs of more than 400 workers at IBM have not shown up in the numbers yet, but economists downplayed the potential impact on state finances.

"If it has to happen, it should come at a time that we can at least absorb it, as opposed to four or five years ago, when it would have been layered on top of something that was a very significant downward spiral," Carr said.

Enough money is leftover from last year's budget to pad reserves, but the economists say Vermont's revenue streams are more volatile now than in the past. That's because of Vermont's progressive tax code and switching the gas tax from a flat tax to a percentage of what you at the pump.

The fiscal future is brighter, but it's also riskier.

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