(Host) The Vermont League of Cities and Towns is urging the Dean administration not to support budget cuts that will impose new burdens on local property taxpayers. Governor Howard Dean says one key local program, state aid to education, will be exempt from the cuts.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) Over the next three weeks, the Dean administration will be putting together a plan to cut spending in the new fiscal year budget by at least $30 million. The cuts are needed because state revenues have failed to meet projections over the last 12 months.
The governor says he’s looking to eliminate some complete programs in state government rather than simply propose across the board cuts for most agencies. Dean wants his Finance Department to present him with a list of options for the cuts:
(Dean) “What we need to do when we do these cuts is not simply to reduce the budget. We need to look at the 2004 budget and take things out of that budget that are high growth items. So they’re going to be looking at lots of different things. They’re going to look at very big cuts and we’re not going to cut everything they recommend. But it’s better for them to give us an array of choices and then be able to make the reductions, which will be smaller than probably the targets they give us.”
(Kinzel) Dean says it’s very likely that he’ll propose cuts in benefit levels for the state’s Medicaid programs but the governor says he will not reduce eligibility standards for these programs.Dean says one large program that will not be cut is state aid to education. The Governor says lawmakers made it very clear at the end of the session that this was one program they didn’t want to see reduced if revenues fell short.
The Vermont League of Cities and Towns is concerned that the Dean administration may try to impose cuts for other key local programs. VLCT Legislative Director Karen Horn is worried that these cuts could place a larger burden on local property taxes:
(Horn) “But I think that given the fact that a lot of cuts have already been made in state services during the Legislative session, that towns are sort of in the crosshairs. And we’re talking about things like municipal transportation funds – highway paving and bridge and culvert funds.”
(Kinzel) The Dean administration will present its budget plan to the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee in about three weeks. The Committee can alter the governor’s plan but if it removes any program from Dean’s list, it must support cuts in other areas so that the overall cost savings remain the same.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.