Douglas will face tough financial picture

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(Host) Governor Howard Dean says it’s likely that the incoming administration of Governor-elect Jim Douglas will face tougher financial problems than originally projected. Dean says he has confidence that Douglas will be able to deal with this situation and Dean endorsed changes to some of the state’s health care programs as a way to reduce spending.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Host) Dean made his comments at his final press conference as governor. After serving for 11 and a half years as governor, Dean will be stepping down from office on Thursday afternoon.

Dean told reporters that while it’s likely that the state will end the current fiscal year slightly ahead of revenue projections, he believes the outlook for the 2004 fiscal year has gotten worse in recent months. The governor says corporate tax receipts are slumping and the uncertainty of war with Iraq could also depress revenue growth.

Dean says incoming governor Jim Douglas will face some difficult budget pressures because very little additional money will be available for new spending next year. And Dean made it very clear that he thinks Douglas is up to the job of keeping the state’s financial house in order:

(Dean) “I’m going to be very supportive of Jim Douglas. Let me just be very clear about this. There’s a few small things that I care about very deeply and he’s going to know what they are because I’m going to tell him privately. But I believe Jim Douglas is going to be a good governor. Jim Douglas, I believe, is a fiscal conservative. I am a fiscal conservative. I think that’s a very good thing to have as a governor in difficult times.”

(Kinzel) Douglas has indicated that he’ll propose some changes to the state’s health care programs to reduce spending. Dean says Douglas is taking the right approach:

(Dean) “The discussions that we’ve had, I agree with what he’s going to do. He’s going to leave the kids’ programs alone, which don’t cost any money. And he’s going to ask for a waiver from the federal government which allows him to charge co-payments and deductibles for people at the higher end receiving Medicaid. That’s exactly the approach that we would have taken.”

(Kinzel) Governor-elect Douglas will outline his budget priorities to the Legislature in a special address at the end of the month.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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