Vermont Governor Phil Scott laid out his expectations Tuesday for the 2019 state budget. As expected, the governor’s plan features no new taxes or fees.
“In the past we’ve set spending levels based only on revenue projections, without considering wage growth or whether spending growing faster than taxpayers can actually afford,” said Scott, R- Vermont.
According to Scott’s administration 26,000 native-born Vermonters now live in Florida and another 27,000 in New Hampshire.
Scott’s budget proposes nearly $4 billion in state spending, a 2.3% increase from 2018. The governor proposed investments in a number of initiatives aimed at attracting new Vermonters.
The governor proposed doubling the $125,000 Down Payment Assistance Program which helps people buy homes. Scott says the program helped 30 families in 2018. Another proposal includes $625,000 in incentives to help renovate and upgrade existing housing stock.
Scott said, “Help working families achieve the dream of home ownership, it doubles in our down payment assistance program.”
The governor is also looking to provide tax relief by exempting military pensions from state income taxes and phasing out state taxes on social security income over three year, which would cost more than $6 million by the third year.
“They deserve as much as anyone to live with the dignity and retirement they earned through a lifetime of work,” said Scott.
While lawmakers say they’re hoping to work closely with Scott’s administration, house and senate leadership say there were not a whole lot of surprises in the governor’s address.
“What we’ve been presented with, at least what it appears from the speech is last year’s budget with some new initiatives around the edges,” said Senator Tim Ashe, D/P- Senate President Pro Tempore.
The governor is also calling for a complete overhaul of the education fund to eliminate what he calls inefficiencies, he’s asking lawmakers for their ideas.
“If we have the courage to discuss all options with civility and respect and are willing to listen and learn from each other, we can save millions of dollars,” pleaded Scott.
Education is an issue that divided Scott’s administration and lawmakers in 2018 and with no firm plan from the governor Tuesday, it could be a point of tension this year too.
“I would direct all of you in the room to ask the governor for what he did not provide today, which were any specifics about cost cutting ideas for education,” said Sen. Phil Baruth, D/P- Chittenden District.
The governor also announced an aggressive approach to the growing mental health needs. Scott proposed $6.4 million for two facility upgrades, which include replacing the temporary secure residential facility in Middlesex and creating a forensics unit at the Northwest State Correctional Facility.