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Vermont lawmakers get first look at state's budget - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vermont lawmakers get first look at state's budget

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

Incoming and outgoing state lawmakers get their respective first and final looks at Vermont's finances.

More than 15 percent of lawmakers will be new this year and they're getting an early start dealing with an old problem.

The well of the House featured budget 101 Wednesday as fiscal experts for the state, governor and Legislature laid out the challenge lawmakers face come January.

For the more than 30 new lawmakers, the volume of data and jargon can be daunting.

"Obviously, there's a learning curve entering as a new legislator. Everybody's been great," said Ben Jickling, I-Brookfield

At 22, Jickling will be the Legislature's youngest member.

"As a young person, a lifelong Vermonter, I was interested in the process. I want to live in Vermont for the rest of my life, so I said why not get involved, bring a fresh perspective to Montpelier," said Jickling.

He says members of all parties welcomed him and offered advice, a nonpartisan success.

"I'm largely a moderate. I ran as an independent so I can work with everybody," said Jickling. 

"It's like going to graduate school all over again," said Annmarie Christensen, D-Perkinsville. 

Christensen says she's excited to dig into the budget.

She ran for office largely because of her district's struggles with the state's school district consolidation law.

"It just didn't work," said Christensen. 

She hopes it can be tweaked to meet the needs or her area.

The budget will demand attention projected to run as much as $70 million in the red.

A state economist says the biggest X factor will be any shifts in federal policy. Vermont receives more in grant money per person than all but three other states.

"There's not a lot of clarity in terms of what might happen," said Tom Kavet, state economist.

That will leave plans to address the situation fluid and so will winter weather because a strong ski season can do wonders for the bottom line.

By the time those answers are clearer, lawmakers will hope to be doing more legislating than learning.

The new legislative session begins on January fourth.

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