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Legislative Notes for January 26, 2011

January 26, 2012

The legislature debated the budget adjustment act (BAA) bill this week. This bill is done annually to ensure that the state ends its fiscal year with a balanced budget. The state’s fiscal year runs from July 1st through June 30th of the following calendar year. Each January, which is approximately the midpoint of the fiscal year the Governors administration prepares an update for the legislature on the status of state revenue and spending to this point. From this information the legislature produces the budget adjustment act bill. This bill gives the legislature an opportunity to make changes to the previously approved spending plan commonly known as the appropriations bill. The spending plan may increase or decrease depending on what has occurred in the first six months of the fiscal year. State revenue fluctuations also play a major role in these decisions to change the spending plan. This year we had another factor that played a role in modifying the plan and that was the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Irene.

The BAA proposal this year proposed a decrease to general fund spending of $300,000 and an overall increase in total state spending of over $11 million. It included downgrades in revenue, money for Tropical Storm Irene damage and the authorization to hire 49 new state employees. Proposing to hire 49 new state employees at this time of the year and in this manner was unprecedented. We understood and may have supported 21 of these new hires as they were for the Agency of Transportation to assist with recovery efforts related to Irene. We raised a lot of questions about the manner in which the 49 positions were being proposed but, ultimately lost the battle. The argument was centered on authorized state government positions and whether filling vacant positions with new employees is adding to the state workforce or not. The State of Vermont has approximately 8200 authorized positions of which 7700 are filled (actual employee in the position). This leaves approximately 500 positions that are vacant. The majority argued that we were not adding additional liability to the state because we were just authorizing the administration to fill 49 positions of the 500 currently vacant. I understood that we were not adding new positions but, we were adding 49 new employees to the 7700 which is on top of the 68 that the Governor added last fiscal year. These new employees will add a substantial amount of cost to the state’s pension, healthcare and other employee related liabilities for years to come. I feel that we cannot continue to grow the size of state government and expect to control the future costs. Further, I felt very strongly that we should not be circumventing the legislative process to add this many new employees and the additional cost associated with them in the BAA and did not support the bill. The bill was passed by the House on Friday.

One of the things I enjoy most about serving in the legislature is hosting friends and constituents at the Statehouse. If you would like to visit the Statehouse please feel free to contact me to arrange a date and time.
I look forward to representing you and your concerns in Montpelier. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns. I am very interested in hearing from you. During the session, I can be reached at the Statehouse by calling 1-800-322-5616 or by cell at 373-5960. My e-mail address is dturner@leg.state.vt.us. My web-site address is www.donturnerjr.com. Thank you and have a great week.

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