Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed the state’s 2020 budget on Tuesday, saying it’s fiscally responsible and affordable for Vermonters.
Republican Governor Phil Scott signed the state’s $6 billion 2020 budget in his ceremonial office in the Statehouse Tuesday as the state treasurer and the Democratic leaders of the appropriation committees looked on.
Last year Scott vetoed the spending plan the legislature presented to him and he pledged to work cooperatively this year with the House and Senate. “The budget I’ll sign today is a good fiscally responsible budget which funds many of the legislature’s priorities as well as initiatives that I proposed. And it does all this while keeping new spending to a level Vermonters can afford. The budget in front of you finds that balance between investing in priorities and maintaining fiscal discipline.”
Scott highlighted 3 percent General Fund spending growth, which he says parallels economic growth and wages. The budget increases childcare funding by $6 million and there’s an additional $3 million for higher education. A dedicated funding source is created for clean water, and the governor notes that there is an extra base appropriation to the retired teachers’ healthcare fund. “Funding our long term liabilities is eating up larger and larger shares of any new revenue. This year over 40 percent of General Fund revenue growth went to these liabilities. That’s why the steps we took this year to address some of our debt is so valuable. Together we’ve also built our reserves to help weather an economic downturn that’s bound to happen.”
Vermont Treasurer Beth Pierce, a Democrat, says she always talks about the need to have structurally balanced budgets that match ongoing expenditures with revenues, don’t use one-time revenues for ongoing programs and pay down long term liabilities. She says the 2020 state budget meets those goals. “It was a very responsible budget. It has increases in reserves. It also begins to pay down some of our long term liabilities. It takes a look at some of the issues we have with teacher health care, state health care as well as the pensions. Putting more money into those now saves you more money in the long term. We worked together to get this done. It’s about collaboration and a structurally sound budget was the result.”
The Democratic chairs of the legislature’s Appropriations committees also praised the budget process and end result. Democratic Representative Catherine Toll is pleased there is a long-term plan to address pension liabilities and the state’s reserve funds. “The budget is balanced. It’s sustainable. The budget that is before us it’s responsible. It addresses the needs of Vermonters and it also addresses our liabilities and preparing for the future. And I think that we have a fine state budget for fiscal year 2020.”
Democratic Senator Jane Kitchel says the budget shows that the state has its fiscal house in order. “This year we actually had more money to work with and we used the money in I believe very strategic ways. I think it was balanced in terms of shoring up our basic safety net issues, looking at workforce, education, childcare, climate and environmental issues. We are happy about the clean water finally coming to some closure on that. The budget does fund a number of initiatives and we’re really happy with how it worked out.”
Governor Scott has asked his cabinet members and department heads to assess the five-year plan and come up with different approaches to invest in economic growth.