Critics Challenge Details Of Gov. Shumlin's Final Budget

Jan 21, 2016

Lawmakers on both the left and right found things to criticize in Gov. Shumlin's budget address. They focused both on the math used to build the budget, and some of the specific spending proposals.

House Minority Leader Don Turner of Milton, who spoke for Republicans, took issue with the governor’s premise that his budget is balanced.

Turner pointed to how additional revenue from new proposed assessments on some physicians and on mutual fund companies is being used to offset the budget increase.

“We can’t keep asking for new state dollars," Turner said. "And that’s the problem: We’ve been saying it for six years; we’ve got to change the tide, we’ve got to bend the curve."

Caledonia Sen. Joe Benning found irony in Shumlin's reference to a doctor shortage in Franklin county in the same address where he proposed new fees for medical professionals.

Benning likened the state’s use of matching federal dollars for programs, to the Vermont’s opiate problem, saying, “This legislature has a wicked addiction of its own.”

Republicans also questioned Shumlin's call to close the St. Johnsbury work camp, which is used to incarcerate non-violent offenders.

"This legislature has a wicked addiction of its own." — Caledonia Sen. Joe Benning on the state's use of matching federal dollars for health programs

Rep. Janssen Willhoit said despite a reduction in the prison population, the work camp in his district is important part of rehabilitating those convicted of crimes.

And Burlington Progressive Chris Pearson says he was troubled by something that Shumlin didn’t touch on in his address, but is contained in his budget: A proposal to reduce Medicaid benefits for pregnant women.

“The irony of him trumpeting more coverage and leading the nation on payment reform and healthcare reform and at the same time proposing a budget that cuts back coverage for lower income pregnant women is pretty astonishing,” Pearson said.