Senate passes state budget

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(Host) The Vermont Senate has given its O-K to the state budget for next year. The budget proposal increases overall state spending by roughly 1.7%.

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Susan Bartlett says the proposed budget meets the important needs of the state in a difficult economic time.

(Bartlett) “In a time when other states are cutting programs, are making drastic reductions in all parts of state government, Vermont’s being able to hold its own and – I believe – move forward in very small steps. But I think that’s very, very important and it doesn’t mean that there isn’t tremendous underlying pressure in the budget, but I believe that we have balanced it well.”

(Host) The Senate plan is approximately six million dollars higher than the budget passed by the House last month. Unlike the House budget, the Senate proposal calls for the new Springfield jail to open on time this summer and it provides money to hire 10 new state troopers. The Senate Appropriations committee has also voted to appropriate an additional three million dollars to fund a comprehensive substance abuse program. Bartlett says funds invested in these programs now will save the state a lot of money in the future:

(Bartlett) “But if we begin that now and we do that for several years, we’re going to help relieve significant pressure in other parts of the budget. Whether it’s corrections, whether it’s in hospitals, whether it’s young people who are being committed to state care because they have problems dropping out of school [and] getting into problems – the only way we’re going to control those costs are by making these significant investments in helping folks with substance abuse problems now.”

(Host) The budget is expected to come up for final approval in the Senate on Friday afternoon.

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