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Legislative Notes for April 3, 2014

March 30, 2014

Busy week at the Statehouse with the budget, miscellaneous tax and pay act bills all coming to the floor late in the week. Unfortunately I was unable to support passage of any of these bills as they keep the state on a path of spending above its means of current revenue.

The Governor encouraged our schools to limit their growth in spending to 3% yet his and this House proposal exceeds that benchmark. I cannot support passage of this bill that spends an additional $52.35 million in general fund, and a total of $213.31 million in all funds in FY15 over the FY14 budget. When this budget ultimately passes at the end of the legislative session, Vermont will be looking at a projected budget gap in FY16 of over $70 million and in FY17 over $72 million. This spending coupled with insufficient reserves, not fully addressing our pension obligations or significant reductions in our reliance on one time money such as the lawsuit settlements against Vermont Yankee and the tobacco companies paints a very bleak economic future for our state. Further, this budget does not include adequate provisions to expand economic opportunity for our constituents and businesses. The legislature must start acknowledging that Vermont has a spending problem and cannot continue to grow annual budgets at two and three times the rate of inflation. Until then, I cannot support a budget proposal.

The miscellaneous tax bill raised approximately $4 million in new revenue by changing some existing tax rates and adding a tax on e-cigarettes. I think that we need to reduce spending not raise new money. Therefore, I voted against the bill.

H.882 the annual pay act provides for annual pay raises greater than 4% over the next two years which equates to more than $10 million this year and $11 million next year. I recognize the hard work of our dedicated state employees and express my gratitude. However, I am also obligated to you my constituents. Many of whom have been deeply affected by the recession and are still struggling to pay your bills. From my perspective, this bill does not strike the right balance between rewarding employee’s efforts and adding additional burden to taxpayers. Therefore, I did not support it.

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 email address is dturner@leg.state.vt.us. My web-site address is http://www.donturnerjr.com. Thank you and have a great week.

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