Positive Reaction To Vermont Budget As Governor Signs Spending Plan Into Law
Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed the 2022 state budget this week. The fiscal plan is being lauded by advocates as the state allocates federal COVID relief funds to address infrastructure, environmental and social equity needs.
When Vermont’s Republican governor signed H.439, the bill authorizing funding for Fiscal Year 2022, he issued a statement calling it “truly transformational.”
The $7.315 billion fiscal plan includes initial allocation of the $1.25 billion the state received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act for pandemic recovery over three years. The state plans to allocate $250 million to install broadband, $250 million for housing, $250 million to mitigate climate change with projects like weatherization, and $225 million for clean water initiatives.
In a WAMC interview earlier this month, Democratic Senate Pro Tem Democrat Becca Balint expressed pride in how the legislature and governor worked to craft a fiscal plan that strategically allocates the ARPA funds.
“We have huge investments in broadband but also massive investments in housing," Balint said. "Investment in childcare. Investment in climate action and water quality issues. We directed about half of the ARPA funds and still are holding off on dedicating hundreds of millions of dollars. We have this opportunity with this massive infusion of cash. We want to make sure we spend it right. So I feel good about the work that we did.”
Vermont Natural Resources Council Executive Director Brian Shupe has very few criticisms about the budget.
"In addition to clean water funding and climate and clean energy funding there’s unprecedented money for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board for land conservation," Schupe said. "An increase of money for the Working Lands Enterprise Fund to invest in our farm and forest enterprises. There’s transportation grants for the downtowns. There’s money for cleaning up contaminated brownfields. Across the board there’s major investment in Vermont communities and in the environment. We’re really pleased to see that.”
Vermont League of Cities and Towns Director of Public Policy and Advocacy Karen Horn says it’s hard to complain about a budget that allows significant state investments from the federal recovery funds.
“The ARPA funds that are coming through are going to get us quite a ways down the road towards addressing needs," Horn said. "But it’s not going to completely resolve clean water or storm water, our severe housing shortage, even around broadband with the amount of money that’s being put into deployment. But we’re in general pretty happy with the budget and its investments in infrastructure and the recognition that you have to work with local governments in order to get the job done.”
Vermont Public Interest Research Group Climate and Energy Program Director Ben Edgerly Walsh says the legislature did a great job at setting out multi-year investments in a number of critical areas including climate action.
“What they’re saying is we’re going big now and we’re going to commit to a high level of funding for the next several years," Walsh said. "And certainly part of that is based on the federal funds that have come in and state funds are also looking fairly good right now. One thing that we are very much going to be pushing for is ongoing sustainable funding sources. We can’t rely on these kinds of federal funds to get us where we need to go five, ten, twenty years from now in climate even though it’s setting a really good foundation for success.”
Vermont’s 2022 fiscal year begins July 1.