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Vt. lawmakers approve $31M in state budget cuts - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. lawmakers approve $31M in state budget cuts

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

Vulnerable Vermonters are caught in a slowing economy with millions in state budget cuts on the way. Gov. Peter Shumlin and a select group of lawmakers agreed to slash the Vermont budget by more than $30 million Wednesday.

The cuts are a response to downgraded revenue forecasts released in July. Analysts determined Vermont's economy will grow, but not as quickly as anticipated when lawmakers wrote the budget. Some of the cuts will come from surplus, but others will be felt by Vermont's neediest populations.

Empty chairs may be the most visible sign of the $31 million the state is cutting from its budget.

The Vermont State Police will save half-a-million dollars simply by leaving seven vacancies vacant, other departments can cut 4 percent by better monitoring overtime or by giving back cash slated for projects which ran into delays, like a shelter for homeless people struggling with drug addiction.

"Some agencies have a lot of other places to go and some of the smaller agencies have less places to go," Vt. Finance and Management Commissioner Jim Reardon said.

Lawmakers vetoed the governor's proposal to reduce assistance for those aging out of foster care and other human service cuts one day after getting an earful from constituents.

The governor ultimately agreed to quadruple his planned reduction to the newly created enterprise fund, bringing the $4.5 million potential incentive package to retain IBM or bring in a successor company down to $3.5 million.

"We think that is an important fund, but in the spirit of cooperating... We will concur with your recommendation," Reardon said.

About half the cuts will carry-over, but the other holes will re-emerge if not addressed by next July.

Sen. Jane Kitchel says that work must begin in January, especially after they scrapped an increase in the rate care providers receive from Medicaid patients.

"The full Legislature needs to come together and deal with it in whatever way we can," said Kitchel, D-Caledonia County.

Two Chittenden County senators-- a Democrat and a Republican-- voted against the cuts.

"It's very frustrating to me that we-- during a rescission that has to be done in such a short period of time-- that we're presented with so few options," said Sen. Diana Snelling, R-Chittenden County.

Snelling says she wanted her vote to send a message that if budgets are set appropriately, instead of pegged to how much cash the state expects to have, shortages could be absorbed rather than triaged.

Final budgets for Vermont's hospitals are due in September. However, I'm told all but one planned on not actually receiving the increased Medicaid reimbursement rate. Green Mountain Care Board Chairman Al Gobeille says he warned hospitals the cash would likely get yanked in April, before it even passed the Legislature. He says it was a gut feeling.

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