The appropriations committees of the Vermont Legislature took testimony this week on Governor Phil Scott’s proposed 2022 state budget.
Governor Scott, a Republican, presented his 2022 $6.83 billion fiscal plan to the state legislature on January 26th.
The House and Senate Committees on Appropriations held joint virtual hearings to hear comments on the plan from more than 70 people. House chair Representative Mary Hooper explained the rules and then immediately opened testimony on a wide range of issues.
Community of Vermont Elders Executive Director Ruby Baker asked legislators to reconsider how such services are funded. “We ask that you consider a 2% increase to the Medicaid reimbursement rate for home and community based services since there was no increase in last year’s budget and no proposed increase in this budget. We feel called upon to request that you revisit the idea of an annual rate setting process for home and community based services.”
Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Charlie Baker spoke on behalf of the state’s 11 Regional Planning Commissions. “There’s a lot of initiatives I know you’re all considering this year. And the RPC’s get asked to help a lot with these types of projects. There’s not been an increase in the regional and municipal planning grant program since 2014.”
Let’s Grow Kids Chief Policy Officer Sarah Kenney told legislators increased investment in child care is crucial. “Our state must commit to changing the system so that no family spends more than 10% of their income on child care, fairly compensating early childhood educators, expanding access to high quality early childhood education and identifying long term funding. The governor’s budget implements a number of these components. Importantly the budget must also include funding for two studies to help map the future of child care.”
Some who spoke supported keeping initiatives in the proposed budget. Central Vermont sawmill operator Ken Gagnon supports the additions to the Working Lands Grant program. “One of the biggest challenges I see for the working lands is who’s going to carry the mantle into the next generation? To get into this industry or to be able to carry on like dairy farming is very intensive for capital. And I would definitely encourage you folks to consider continuing that support.”
Funding for the state college system has been an issue in recent months. Sandy Noyes is an office manager at Northern Vermont University Johnson. “The faculty, staff and students support these communities and we put millions of dollars into the coffers for the state. We’ve been told that Vermont cannot afford the state colleges. Can the state afford not to?”
Jan van Eck is a manufacturer who, rather than requesting funds, told legislators they need to make a fundamental change in how they approach the budget. “There’s never going to be enough cash. You folks raise your cash by taxation and some money from fees and the odd money from the tourists. It’s time for the state to start looking at the broader perspective. What you can do is you can raise funds by selling state goods and services to people outside the state.”