Lawmakers take on mid-year budget revisions - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Lawmakers take on mid-year budget revisions

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Hotels for the homeless represent one of the biggest unexpected costs for the state's yearly budget.
Homeless individuals can cash in a voucher for emergency shelter, but the program is more than $3 million over budget. Monday house legislators in charge of spending welcomed administration officials and their plan to balance the books.

"This being the 2nd of December there are pieces of this budget adjustment that are likely to evolve between now and the time you're ready to bring it to the floor," said Vt. Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding.

The biggest increase legislators need to grapple with -- along with emergency shelter -- comes from shipping inmates out-of-state in surprisingly high numbers, underpaid Medicaid bills, and once again making rent payments on buildings temporarily covered by FEMA after Tropical Storm Irene.  
The General Fund needs a $12.5 million increase, or a less than one-percent hike on a $1.33 billion dollar budget. Budget writers suggest using reserve funds, set aside last year in case of cost overruns, to cover most of that figure.

"We want to see the Governor and the super-majority start looking at ways to save money instead of continue spending," said House Minority Leader Rep. Don Turner (R-Milton). With an approximately $70-million budget gap projected for next year, Turner says cuts need to be on the table.
Department of Finance and & Management Commissioner Jim Reardon says this is just the beginning of fine-tuning the budget and that prescriptions for long-term fixes will come later, once they know what's a blip and what's a trend.

House Speaker Shap Smith pledged no tax hikes this year and House Appropriations Chair Rep. Martha Heath (D-Westford) says cuts will be on her table, though not on this budget. She says because half the year has passed, they would need to cut twice as much to achieve the intended savings.

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