Scott administration asks state departments, agencies: can you live with 8% budget cut?
By Guy Page
May 13, 2020 – The Scott administration wants all agency and department heads to consider an eight percent budget cut to eliminate the state’s looming 2021 $400 million budget deficit, Administration Secretary Suzanne Young confirmed at a press conference today.
The estimated $400 million deficit has been caused by pandemic-related economic losses. Responding to a question posed by Erin Petenko of VT Digger, Secretary Young said, “We are putting forth a three month budget beginning July 1. We have been working with agencies and departments for how much operational money they will need. The direction was to let us know if they could live with 23% of their fiscal year budget.”
“That represents an eight percent decrease,” Young said. “Whether that eight percent will continue remains to be seen.” If the federal government changes its mind and allows states to reduce deficits with federal recovery money, or if the economy recovers better than expected, the deficit may be well below $400 million. Both the administration and the Legislature hope to have answers to both questions by August, when the Legislature returns to set the October-June 2021 budget.
Meanwhile, Vermont Daily readers have responded with enthusias to Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe’s challenge to “tell us the program that you want to get rid of.” See comments at bottom of yesterday’s column and on our Facebook page. Two commenters of note are both candidates for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. Ashe is seeking the Democratic nomination for that post.
Candidate Dana Colson of South Royalton, a self-employed businessman, takes the same tack as the administration. “If my math is correct, that $400 million dollar deficit is approximately 7% of the budget. I find it hard to believe we can’t find 7% in cuts,” he said in a comment to Vermont Daily yesterday. “Covid-19 has has shown us that a lot of jobs were deemed “Non-Essential.” How about we have each agency head earn their paycheck? How about we tell each of those agency heads we are cutting your budget 7%. Then it is their job to find where to cut non-essential items from their respective budgets.”
“I read somewhere the Governor had implemented a hiring freeze,” Colson said. “That’s a good start. There’s an old saying ‘When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.’ In this case when you’re in a financial hole, stop spending.”
In a press release issued last night, LG candidate Meg Hansen asked Sen. Ashe (and other legislators proposing tax increases): “Tell us – what parts of our household budgets should we scrap so that we can afford your tax increases? Should we cut back on food, rent/ mortgage, education programs for our children, or retirement savings?”
Hansen added, “I disagree with Ashe’s claim that there is little fat to trim. The All-Payer Model, run by OneCare Vermont, is morbidly obese. Another billion-dollar undertaking is the state’s network of nonprofits that are paid (some entirely by taxpayer funds) to run programs for the government. There is a lot of duplication in these activities thanks to lacking oversight and accountability.”
Cover photo: Dana Colson