Governor Peter Shumlin says he’ll ask lawmakers to close a $50 million budget shortfall by making cuts to state programs and not by raising any broad based taxes.
When lawmakers return to the Statehouse in January, it’s likely that they’ll face some difficult financial decisions.
The Shumlin Administration is in the process of drafting its budget for next year and the Governor says he’s asking all agencies and departments of state government to submit a level funded spending plan for policy makers to consider.
Shumlin says the state once again faces a sizeable gap between available revenue and budget demands and he says the solution is not to increase any broad based taxes.
"We’ve got some tough fiscal times that need to be dealt with once again," said Shumlin. "I was hoping that we wouldn’t be back here dealing with another $50 million to $70 million budget deficit, we are, and I’m going to be presenting a budget that’s going to ask the Legislature to once again balance the budget the old fashioned way by making tough spending choices not raising broad based taxes."
Shumlin says he’s concerned that raising taxes to deal with the budget gap could hurt the state’s fragile economic recovery.
"I say that because Vermont’s biggest problem is not that our taxes are not high enough it is that they are too high and every time we raise them we add to the burden that we currently have in this state."
Shumlin also expects that lawmakers will pass some controversial bills this winter including the decriminalization of marijuana.
"To spend our limited law enforcement resources going after folks who are using small amounts of marijuana just doesn’t make any sense," said Shumlin. "Now a lot of other states have figured that out already. Vermont is usually a leader in this one we’re a laggard but I think we should get it done."
Shumlin also wants lawmakers to pass a bill that would provide undocumented workers who are employed on dairy farms some form of a legal state drivers license.
"We can’t bring milk to the market without guest workers in Vermont, just can’t do it… that we think the national immigration policies are ill advised and not serving Vermont well," said Shumlin. "But meanwhile until they get their act together down in Washington we ought to acknowledge that we have workers on our farms who are not documented and give them the opportunity to get to a store to get to a doctor and to be part of our community."
The Governor also predicted that a bill that supporters call Death With Dignity and opponents refer to as Physician Assisted Suicide will become law next year as well as legislation that would allow early childhood educators to unionize.