State Budget

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Vermont’s budget crisis is getting worse as state revenues continue to plummet. Governor Jim Douglas wants to respond to the problem by cutting more programs, but some lawmakers want to raise taxes to offset some of these cuts. House Speaker Shap Smith discusses the budget cuts, how lawmakers should deal with Federal stimulus package money, tax hikes and the future of Vermont Yankee.

Also in the program, reporter analysis of Governor Douglas’ visit with President Obama, details of the stimulus package emerging and the slump in state revenues.

Plus, a listen back to some of the voices in the news this week.

AP Photo/Toby Talbot

Listener comments:

Bob in Underhill:

In listening to the discussion between the governor and the legislature I wonder:
Hypothetically a family (two adults and two children) has a small cash reserve (2months living
expenses), equity in there home (150,000). One of the parents lost their Job at IBM last week. The reserve fund is going to be used to cover immediate expenses. It is becoming clear that there is no job prospects locally that will provide the compensation needed to support the
current lifestyle. The grand parents have offered to help financially (Stimulus package)
Would you recommend to this family that they use this stimulus to continue in
their current life style? Should the Family borrow against the equity in their home?
What would be your long term advice for this family? How is our State any different then this family?


Matt in Burlington:

Is there anyway to cut the budget by cutting some of Douglas’ budget.
Instead of cutting programs like Catamount and education, the first on the
chopping block should be Douglas’ PR staff and his personal food budget and have him pay back the money he owes the state by using state employees to help run his reelection campaign. That is what people are telling us to do. Cut back on things you do not need.


Michael in Rutland:

Some questions/thoughts to ask Speaker Shap Smith regarding the Budget and proposals to pay for the shortfall.

1. I’ve heard that there is a proposal to add a tax surcharge
onto the income tax for all Vermonter’s to cover the budgetary
shortfalls. My concern, as a young Vermonter paying back student loans
and just getting started out, is that this is just another tax that
will take away more of my limited income. Young people who stay in
Vermont earn less income than other Northeast areas and still face high
costs of living. We are young professionals with college
and professional degrees that someday may constitute the middle and
upper classes of this state. In a time when Vermont needs young people
to stay here, why increase the cost of living?

2. I am still surprised that with all the talk about how to fill
in this defecit, there has been no interest in using at least some of
the so called "rainy day fund." Why is this?

3. And one observation I have to mention and yes, that would be
New Hampshire. Whenever I drive over there, they have smooth roads,
open rest areas, a growing economy (including retail), and a similar
quality of life without an income tax or a sales tax. Can Vermont
learn from New Hampshire? What is it that their
state government "gets" about tax policy that ours does not?


Tim in Bennington:

Governor Douglas favors raising vehicle registration fees to
reflect inflation rates since the last increase, but opposes any increase in
the gas tax. We need revenue to maintain our transportation
infrastructure, including rail. I favor raising the gas tax to reflect
inflation rates since the last time it was increased. If it helps, change
the name of the gas tax to a transportation user fee.


Can you comment on this:
In light of the tragic consequences of the federal government’s use,
in the Bush administration, of private contracts to conduct
government business, [causing huge wastes of money and no oversight–

think Blackwater in Iraq,
the prison system, etc.] can vermont take a look at the ways in which Gov. Douglas has followed the same
design here in Vermont?
The Governor ran on a platform in which he said he had created jobs
in Vermont. Are these private contractors, who take the jobs of

hardworking, committed, and accountable state employees, the "new"

jobs created?

Tena in Barton:

I don’t understand why we don’t follow New York’s lead and tax junk food. No
one needs Doritos and Pepsi to survive.
People are waiting a couple of weeks just to get through to the Labor Dept.
to file an unemployment claim because the office is understaffed in light
of increased claims. Others are waiting weeks to get applications for fuel
assistance or help with food processed. And we’re talking about cutting even
MORE state employees?

I say add a new tax — on soda and snack food, which no one would suffer
from, and some might benefit from. We could raise money and improve health
all at once.


Jen in Bridport:

I would suggest raising taxes on non-necessities like cigarettes and alcohol. This would have a two fold benefit, one we could raise revenue and two it could discourage two habits that greatly influence the health of our fellow Vermonters. Thank you for this discussion, I always enjoy the show.



I voluntarily took a pay cut at work, and now there’s talk about my
taxes going up? Shouldn’t taxes be cut right now? I do not support
raising taxes in the midst of a recession.



On June 1, 2007 I proposed that Vermont start its own currency
based on credit instead of debt. No taxes would be needed and a
portion of what is now paid for with dollars could be paid for with
Vermont credits. The credits would be honored by the State for any
bill or fee. Private citizens would accept them voluntarily because
they would know that they had some value. Non-profits could be
given some money and some credits to pay their employees. Credits
could be traded on a commodity exchange.You can find the Vermont Freedom Currency proposal at
I encourage you to put this information on the air for the public good.


Kathleen in Rutland:


If you lay off state employees as planned, will you
also be shifting the cost of their health care on to the public sector.Why not an across the board percentage rate on income tax,
the middle class and poor will pay their fair share and so will the wealthy who
have been getting a free ride with the loopholes in tax laws that favor the
wealthy.The cleaning people pay the same percentage of their income
as their CEO’s.



Adam in Burlington:

I’ve worked in both the private sector and for the
state of
Vermont. One of the striking
differences I found between the two was a greater percentage of what I would
politely call “non-essential employees” working for the
state. Private firms such as Green Mountain Power have hired
efficiency consultants to identify areas for cost savings. Why hasn’t
the state done the same thing?


Josia in Hinesburg:

Thank you VPR for taking our comments and concerns for
this wonderful state of ours, and to ours legislators for your good work. Would like a reminder that today is February 6th National
"Go Red For women" to raise
awareness against heart disease Our # 1 killer for women and men. State Alerts: Prevention works! Help us remind our elected officials
about our important fight against heart disease and stroke. Even in tough
financial times, public health prevention programs save lives and money!

1 Give our state workers all the census jobs. 2 Court and offer tax incentives all our
university business students to start companies in the state. Remove the $250
state tax for LLC with more than 1 member, would encourage
many entrepreneurs to start businesses. 3 Store gas while its cheap/er and put 5- 10
cents/gallon tax on now, but remove it if/when gas increases and sell the store
gas then.



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