By Brent Addleman | The Center Square
Gov. Phil Scott unveiled what he said was a balanced fiscal 2023 budget that does not raise taxes while using federal federal funds to pay for a variety of new spending initiatives.
The governor’s $7.7 billion budget proposal calls for growing and strengthening the workforce, giving kids more opportunities, and helping communities recover from the pandemic and thrive in the future, Scott said in a news release.
The budget, according to the release, will provide tax relief to state residents as there are surpluses in the general and education funds on top of federal funding the state received as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.
“In my 21 years in public life, there has never been a more transformative moment,” Scott said in the release. “We have, within our grasp, the chance to combine good ideas, thoughtful legislation, and unprecedented financial resources into a better, brighter future – where there are good jobs, affordable homes, and every community is thriving; where every kid is getting the best education, whether they go to the largest school or the smallest; where families keep more of what they earn; and where a healthy and vibrant economy in all 14 counties allows us to protect the vulnerable and invest in the things we care about most.”
The budget, according to the release, calls for spending $2 billion in the general fund, $326 million in the transportation fund, and another $1.9 million in the education fund. The general fund features a $234 million surplus, according to Scott, while the education fund has a $90 million surplus.
“As you know, last year we received over $1 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act, which I proposed splitting into five major initiatives: broadband and cell service; housing; climate change mitigation; water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure; and economic recovery,” Scott said.
Scott said the budget features a payment of $394 million to fully fund the state’s retirement program obligations and reduces long-term debt. The governor is urging the Legislature to “retire $22 million of transportation borrowing and pay off another $20 million in general obligation bonds” for capital projects. Scott said the move would save taxpayers millions in interest payments in the coming years.
In the budget address, Scott pointed to 24,000 lost jobs since February 2020, saying it is “larger than the population of every city and town in Vermont other than Burlington.
Scott said the loss was a “massive piece of our economy,” and said he wants the Legislature to focus on job creation and job retention to “reverse these trends and secure the brighter future we all want to build.”
The budget calls for a $1 million investment in the state’s internship program. Scott said he plans to add an additional $1 million in grants to support adults enrolling in training programs who do not have a college degree.
The budget, according to the release, calls for a $15 million investment to retain nurses, and directs an additional $18 million to train, retain, and recruit health-care and mental health workers. An additional $10 million would be spent to reduce education costs for students seeking training in the trades.
Housing is also a focus of the governor’s budget.
“And with another $25 million for VHIP, we can continue to transform rundown or vacant units into livable homes,” Scott said. “To see how well this program is working, just ask any of the families who have moved from homelessness into newly renovated apartments across the state, from Brattleboro to Bennington, Springfield to Rutland, Barre to Lyndonville, and beyond.”
Scott, according to the release, is asking for an additional $105 million investment for affordable, mixed-income housing in the state.
The budget, according to the release, will help Vermont compete with other states for the cost of living and tax burdens.
Scott proposed $50 million in tax relief in the budget, according to the release, which would exempt military families from state taxes and help retirees and low-income workers. The budget would also aid younger workers and families with student loan interest reductions and an increase to the child and dependent care credits.