House Republicans reject Douglas’ budget request

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(Host) On Tuesday, the Vermont House rejected Governor Jim Douglas’ plan to add 10 new state troopers in next year’s budget. House members are also debating whether or not to open the Springfield prison this summer.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) In an unusual turn of events, many House Democrats came to the governor’s defense over the trooper issue while many members of Douglas’ own party opposed him.

Douglas was very upset when the House Appropriations Committee reduced his request for new state troopers in half – from 10 to five positions. The committee argued that it had already added six new troopers in the supplemental budget bill. Instead of backing the governor’s request, the panel decided to allocate additional resources to the state’s judicial system to deal with a projected increase in court cases.

Representative Bill Lippert (D-Hinesburg) urged his colleagues to restore roughly a million dollars to the budget to pay for the additional five troopers and to provide additional overtime pay:

(Lippert) “This is a matter of public safety. This is a matter of saving lives, protecting lives. This is a matter of correcting what I believe is disproportionate vacancy rate ordered for vacancy savings. Our troopers deserve the support that we can give them. I believe this is an appropriate request.”

(Kinzel) But Judiciary Chairwoman Peg Flory (R-Pittsford) argued that adding more troopers without providing more resources for the state’s judicial system was a mistake:

(Flory) “If we don’t have the adequate system in place to put that criminal through the system, to provide that criminal with a speedy trial – then we’ve done nothing except weaken our existing laws. We’ve done nothing to help our state police. What we’re saying to them is, ‘You go ahead and you write your tickets but please don’t get upset with us when the case gets dismissed because that’s somebody else’s fault.’ It’s not somebody else’s fault – it’s our fault.”

(Kinzel) By a vote of 92 to 52, the House rejected the amendment. The House will continue its review of next year’s budget on Tuesday.

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

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