By Dave Fidlin | The Center Square
Vermont’s fiscal 2022 budget adopted last spring could be adjusted upward, with a 5% increase in spending, if a House panel’s recommendation moves forward.
After a week of deliberations, the House Committee on Appropriations on Jan. 14 voted, 11-0-0, in favor of H.679, which calls for a budget adjustment increase of $358.6 million for unduplicated appropriations.
Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s fiscal 2022 budget was adopted last May.
A portion of the changes includes the infusion of $113 million into the state’s general fund for a range of purposes, many falling under the umbrella of health and mental care.
The new appropriations also reflect the use of $106.3 million in state fiscal recovery funds covered through federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars.
The 11 members serving on the House Appropriations Committee combed through the budgets of a range of state-level services in the run-up to Friday’s vote.
By week’s end, committee members largely were in lockstep with one another and favored the bill’s passage to move it forward for a full legislative vote.
“Thank you, friends,” state Rep. Mary Hooper, D-Montpelier, said at the conclusion of the week’s deliberations. “This really is a good warm up for doing the FY ’23 budget, although we will not gallop through ’23 as hard as we did through ’22.”
One of the more discussed changes amid the weeklong deliberation session touched on the near doubling of funding for the state’s health care workforce.
Scott had called for $33 million in retention funding for a range of professions within the health care industry. Members of the House Appropriations Committee, however, are calling on a total $60 million allocation, with funding coming from federal ARPA money and other state-specific funds.
The workforce funding would go toward staff retention payments, particularly in venues such as assisted living residences, nursing homes, residential care homes and home health agencies. Also in the mix are substance use treatment providers and recovery centers.
The budget adjustments also include a number of changes committee members say are one-time occurrences.
Among them: transferring $50 million into the pension reserve, bringing its general fund total to $200 million, and transferring $1.55 million into the Center for Crime Victims Services fund to address an existing revenue shortfall.