Statement by Senate Shumlin regarding the passage of the Budget Adjustment Bill
The Vermont Senate today passed the FY09 Budget Adjustment bill with a 26-1 vote. The passage of this bill will ensure that Vermont continues to maintain vital state services. The bill also allows the state to draw down millions of dollars made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In addition to balancing the state budget, these dollars will put Vermonters to work and repair our crumbling roads and bridges. The Budget Adjustment bill cuts general fund spending by $42 million and uses the American Recovery and Reinvestment funds to balance the state budget. The federal economic stimulus package was intended to stabilize state budgets as states across the nation, including Vermont, face staggering deficits and allow states to avoid reductions in essential services, said President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin. This Budget Adjustment bill uses the federal funds to ensure that Vermont maintains critical state services at a time when Vermonters are relying on them more than ever before.Several highway projects around the state will be funded with the first half of the federal stimulus money. These projects will put Vermonters to work this spring, fixing our crumbling roads and bridges. In order to receive these federal funds, the money needs to be obligated in 120 days. This bill grants the authority to obligate that money and identifies a list of potential projects that can be funded with this first portion of federal highway stimulus dollars.In the Administration s initial budget adjustment proposal, it was proposed that the April town highway payments be reduced by 15 percent. With overwhelming support from the Senate Transportation Committee, a provision was included in the Budget Adjustment bill to ensure that town highway payments in April are the full quarterly payments. Like the state, towns across the state are struggling to balance their budgets and fund projects, said Senator Susan Bartlett, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. It is imperative that during these troubling times we keep our commitment to the towns of Vermont.In addition, stipulations of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act required Vermont to suspend increases in Medicaid premiums in order to draw down potentially $260 million in federal funds. With the enactment of this bill, Vermont will be able to draw down the first installment of these funds and is expected to receive roughly $36 million by early May.