Statehouse Headliners: Legislators warned they must find $60 mil to pay old bills

By Guy Page

The Legislature has the discretion to fund, modify, or not fund thousands of current and proposed line items that comprise the proposed 2020 General Fund budget, estimated at $1.6 billion. However it must by law fund $60 million in required new spending, House Appropriations Chair Kitty Toll, D-Danville, told the House Democratic Caucus today.

This $60 million in required 2020 spending is made necessary because previous legislatures incurred debt or committed future legislatures to pay for mandated programs. Here’s the breakdown:

  • $6 million debt service
  • $21 million committed for underfunded teachers retirement fund
  • $6 million committed for underfunded state employees retirement fund
  • $9 million committed in last year’s state employee pay increase
  • $6 million committed for state employee job reclassification
  • $11 million required for expected Agency of Human Services caseload growth in mandated services

There is no “wiggle room” in these allocations, Toll said. Revenue is up over last year, so the total budget gap is “only” about $7 million. But lawmakers and taxpaying Vermonters shouldn’t breathe a sigh of relief (“hey, it could be worse”) because the gap for 2021 is expected to be between $38 million and $52 million. “We need to plan prudently now to limit the damage,” Toll said.

She spoke those words on Tuesday morning. One can only speculate that by Thursday afternoon the chair’s warning will still be ringing in the ears of the House Government Operations Committee members when they hear testimony on H.334, to “permit long-term temporary State employees to collectively bargain.” If H.334 passes, “An individual employed in a temporary capacity shall:

A. be paid in accordance with the job classification and pay plan for classified State employees that is most closely applicable
B. receive paid and unpaid leave, including sick and annual leave, parental and family leave, holidays, and other leave
C. not be terminated without good cause
D. after six months receive health insurance benefits that, at a minimum, satisfy the affordable minimum essential coverage standards of the Affordable Care Act and provide coverage for the individual’s dependents.

If approved, the new pay and benefits would take effect July 1, 2019. The bill doesn’t say how much money it would commit future legislatures to allocate.

Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.

Image courtesy of Bruce Parker/TNR

8 thoughts on “Statehouse Headliners: Legislators warned they must find $60 mil to pay old bills

  1. When do I see my raise or retirement fund?? Every year I make less and less as they increase my taxes to pay for this over size budget. Time to say no. The education in this state is a mess, we loss good teachers because of the lack of discipline. The powers that be want more grant money so we have schools filled with babysitters not educators. They get paid how much? Our politicians are not held accountable for any of the bills they pass and they spend millions studying the issues all for not! When will the financial conservatives of both parties say we have had enough.

  2. It sounds like it’s time to stop spoiling the teachers and state employees with all of the free wheeling benefits that come from the money in our pockets. Benefits of which we also have to pay for out our own pockets.

  3. Just maybe good old Vermont conservatism wasn’t such a bad way to govern. They should take care of the state’s business and then go home.

  4. Hey, Montpelier how’s are you ” Free Spending Liberals” going to come up $60M for the
    debt they incurred ??

    Vermont is not a business-friendly State well, unless your a commercial pot dealer or a microbrewer………..Legislators two newly found cash cows !!

    Wake up Vermont, hold Montpelier accountable for there blunders, most citizens live within
    there means………….

  5. 1.6 billion?????????? Classic Lib/Dem/Prog approach. Spend, spend, spend, kick the can down the road and let someone else figure out how to come up with the funding .

  6. Kicking the can down the road only works in the fed system..This is flatlander 101 as the states they all come from thrive on passing the buck and states that they come from are all fiscally inept. Maybe we should not allow flatlanders to make law for Vermonters..
    We never had this problem pre 70’s with fiscal conservatives in charge.
    Thankfully someone had the foresight to make um pay something but that foresight should have made them pay as they go. Can’t pay for it you can’t pass the bill.

    • In 2010 the State of Vermont budget for mental health was $150 million; the proposed budget for 2020 is $267 million ($427 for every single person residing in Vermont). The mental health facilities (the ‘Counseling & Support Services) are raking in the cash and doling out quite the nice salaries. The highest paid folks in Vermont all work for a ‘non-profit’, probably because there’s little to no state oversight.

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