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Friday, March 23, 2018

Vermont House Approves $5.8 Billion Budget With Broad Support

Posted By on Fri, Mar 23, 2018 at 10:54 PM

click to enlarge Rep. Kitty Toll (D-Danville), chair of the House Appropriations Committee - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Rep. Kitty Toll (D-Danville), chair of the House Appropriations Committee
After a 10-hour debate on gun control measures, the Vermont House briskly passed a $5.8 billion budget Friday night.

The figure represents a 1.1 percent increase over last year's budget.

"Our growth rates are astounding if you like low growth rates," said House Appropriations chair Rep. Kitty Toll (D-Danville). "I don’t know how much lower I can go."

The 2019 budget, which passed by a 122-10 vote, relies on about $2.5 billion of state money, $1.6 billion of which would be allocated to the general fund to cover general government expenses. That's slightly more than the general fund proposed by Gov. Phil Scott.

Ahead of the vote, several representatives argued in favor of more funding for causes such as health care subsidies, the state's attorney's office and substance abuse treatment. "We know there are many areas in the state budget that need to be shored up," Toll said in response, but the committee was working within the constraints dictated by Scott — no new taxes or fees.

Overall, however, opposition to the budget was markedly muted, with Democrats, Progressives and Republicans praising the House Appropriations Committee for putting forth a modest budget.

The budget maintains several programs that Gov. Phil Scott had proposed cutting, including funding to support people with disabilities and tuition loan repayments for primary care providers.

The budget was buoyed by a $28 million windfall the state recently received from a tobacco settlement, which put more money into substance abuse programs, shored up the teachers' retirement fund and was invested in the state's higher education institutions.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, which is led by Toll's older sister, Sen. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia), will now take up the bill.

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Alicia Freese

Alicia Freese

Alicia Freese is a Seven Days staff writer.

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