Lawmakers Meet Ahead of 2018 Session
The unofficial start of the 2018 legislative session came today when Vermont’s Joint Fiscal Office–the legislature’s nonpartisan policy shop–held a briefing for all members of the House and Senate. This annual fiscal update is part of the preparation that goes on before the session reconvenes on January 3.
Lawmakers first heard from the General Assembly’s economist, Tom Kavet. Kavet’s presentation highlighted the fiscal uncertainty that has been brought by protracted, unpredictable debates in Washington DC. As Kavet explained, “While details associated with this legislation are changing by the hour, most likely versions direct the largest benefits to corporations and wealthy individuals, with broader middle class impacts mixed, with most (about 75%) receiving some near-term benefit, but in aggregate paying more in the long run due to the expiration of many of the benefits, but not the offsets, in later years. Virtually no benefits are directed to low income individuals or the working poor.”
As further noted in this presentation, state revenues through October, 2017 across funds have largely kept pace with expectations. Kavet explained that the current economic cycle has remained robust, but that persistent demographic trends in the region, and in Vermont, may be problematic as the state ages. Kavet’s economic presentation is available for viewing below:
Lawmakers also heard updates from Governor Scott’s new budget management team from the Agency of Administration and Department of Finance and Management. Commissioner Adam Greshin–who I once sat next to in the Education Committee before he resigned from the House to join the Scott Administration–presented general information about the budget landscape.
I often hear from neighbors who voice confusion about how Vermont sets its budget. The State of Vermont’s budget process is what I like to call a “set” and “check” approach. This approach means that each year in the winter and spring the General Assembly works to pass a budget for the following fiscal year. Let’s use 2017 as an example:
- Spring 2017: lawmakers work with the Governor to pass a balanced budget into law
- Summer 2017: a panel of lawmakers and the Governor called the “Emergency Board” meet to determine whether any adjustments need to be made to the budget; if so, recessions and changes can be made unilaterally by this panel
- Fall 2017: a panel of lawmakers called the “Joint Fiscal Committee” meet to review the state of the budget and, once more, assess whether unexpected revenue or spending trends warrant adjustments
- Late Fall/Early Winter 2017: the Administration works to prepare its budget for presentation to the General Assembly in the year thereafter. Lawmakers are briefed at the State House to develop a more in depth understanding of the state of Vermont’s economy, demographics, revenue and spending trends, and other essential facts
- January 2018: if necessary, lawmakers work with the Administration to pass the annual “budget adjustment” which corrects any difference between expected revenue and expenditures
Some neighbors have reached out to weigh in on the budget that’s currently being developed. I’m always happy to hear your feedback at either firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 802-734-8841. Another excellent way to share your budget priorities is by submitting feedback directly to the Scott Administration. This year, the Administration has launched an online survey for Vermonters to provide ideas and input. I encourage you to share your voice.