Report from Montpelier: Jan. 30, 2014

Joan Lenes

Joan Lenes

By Rep. Joan Lenes

Just as a reminder, Rep. Kate Webb and I will be at Next Door Bakery and Café on Tuesday mornings during the months of February and April from 7:30-8:30am. We will be back at Bruegger’s in March and May at the same times. We hope this offers more opportunities for you to check in with us. We look forward to conversations with you.

The House and Senate Committees are moving along. This past week, the House voted on H.655, the Budget Adjustment Act (BAA) that was presented to us by the Appropriations Committee. This BAA allows us to respond to the needs of our communities in the following (and many other) ways:

  • Funding cleanup of illegal pesticide application in Rutland County ($250,000);
  • It gets us started in addressing opiate treatment with $200,000 directed at the waiting list and another $175,000 toward recovery centers;
  • It provides economic stability to the Vermont Veterans home with $1.87 million to address a budget gap and $980,000 to cover Medicaid shortfalls;
  • It allows more of our seniors to remain at home as they age ($2 million);
  • It helps us respond to the upcoming closure of Vermont Yankee with $500,000 for Windham County economic development;
  • It funds potential uptick in winter road maintenance with $1.375 million (which can be re-allocated to spring paving); and
  • It allows us to extend limited service positions in Agency of Transportation (through 6/30/2016) to continue work with towns on disaster declarations.

The change in dollars of just over $12.6 million represents less than 1 percent increase in spending over the Appropriations Bill that was enacted last year, and all increases were covered by available funds. In addition, the improved General Fund Consensus revenue forecast of $8.5 million presented to the Joint Fiscal Committee on Jan.15, plus an additional $1 million improvement in property transfer tax revenues resulted in a replenishment of the rainy day fund, getting it to $9.5 million.

Approving this Budget Adjustment Act leaves us with fully funded stabilization reserves.  Our General Fund has $62 million, our Transportation fund has $11.7 million, and our Education fund has $29.3 million. With these changes, we are still carrying our emergency reserves at $9.5 million. I supported this Bill, and it passed the House with a vote of 110-33 after coming out of the Appropriations Committee with a vote of 10-1.

I have heard from a few of you about the earned sick days bill, H.208. No decisions have been made; the House Committee on General Housing and Military Affairs will be taking testimony. Its counterpart in the Senate is S.255. The Committee will hear from the sponsor, legislative council, Voices for Vermont Children, Vermont Chamber of Commerce, Vermont Business for Social Responsibility, Vermont Retail Association, Vermont Public Health Association, Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce, a guidance counselor, and the Vermont Grocers’ Association. Later this week, they will have a public hearing open to proponents and opponents. There is much to be considered when looking at this issue. Exploring the employer and worker consequences as well as public health concerns are just a few. Much more to come – stay tuned.

Please join Kate Webb and me this next Tuesday from 7:30-8:30am at Next Door Bakery and Café, next to The Flying Pig Book Store. We will be there each Tuesday morning in February.

You can reach me at 999 9363 or jlenes@leg.state.vt.us.

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