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Mixed reactions to Governor Phil Scott’s 2024 budget proposal

Vermont Statehouse  (file photo)
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Vermont Statehouse (file)

Vermont Governor Phil Scott has outlined his 2024 budget proposal. His Republican colleagues agree with his strategy, but more progressive groups are unimpressed.

After being re-elected to a fourth term in November, Scott’s budget message Jan. 20th emphasized the continued use of an influx of federal pandemic relief funds strategically without raising taxes or fees. He also focused on bringing economic equity to the state’s diverse regions as part of the $8.4 billion plan.

“We’ve seen incredible growth over the last two years because the economy has been supercharged by the sheer volume of federal funds. But we know that’s only temporary. So, it’s critical we act now to close the distance between regions and families. We can give every town the chance to catch up, to restore their vitality.”

Governor Scott called the plan his most consequential to date.

“Because of the extraordinary moment we’re in this is undoubtedly the most significant budget I have presented in my time as Governor. It’s also the biggest and most complex. Across all the funds this is an $8.4 billion budget, with $2.3 billion in the General Fund; $2.1 billion in the Education Fund; and $335 million in the Transportation Fund. Another thing to keep in mind: we’re still making our way through the billion dollars in ARPA funds allocated over the last two years. But we know these windfalls won’t last forever, which is why we were very disciplined when we put together this year’s budget.”

Scott says his budget invests rather than spends in order to generate future revenue.

It includes $150 million for infrastructure improvements, calls for a two-year, $9.2 million pilot program to help primary-care physicians better address substance abuse and mental health issues, and includes funding for housing assistance programs and to expand access and affordability of child care.

It remains to be seen how Democrats and Progressives, with their legislative supermajorities, will receive the plan, but fellow Republicans are on-board with the governor. House Minority Leader Pattie McCoy of Poultney issued a statement noting “The priorities of most Vermonters are housing, health care, and child care. Governor Scott’s budget addresses these issues, and more .... without raising taxes or fees.”

Senate Minority Leader Randy Brock of Franklin served as state auditor from 2005 to 2007.

“We have this huge amount of federal money. We’re not going to get it again and it’s imperative that we spend it on things such as infrastructure, improvement in roads and bridges and highways, expansion of broadband. These are things that are lasting. This federal money we will not have it in the future and a lot of times I don’t think our Democrat friends are aware of that.”

Vermont Public Interest Research Group Executive Director Paul Burns says the governor appeared less willing to compromise despite the legislature’s supermajority.

“I was a little bit surprised that there wasn’t more of a collaborative approach in the tone and content of the governor’s speech.”

Burns points to Governor Scott’s affordability and no taxes pledge.

“He seems to be stuck on the idea that well anything that raises any taxes is off the table. To me I heard more of a I’m going to go my own way here. And I think the legislature is going to be disinclined. I don’t think they’re going to be following his stated path in some of those big areas.”

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