Senate Rejects Shumlin Cuts For Now

May 1, 2015

The Senate Committee on Appropriations has rejected the bulk of the budget-cutting package Gov. Peter Shumlin has pressed them to adopt – for now at least.

Senate lawmakers will head to the floor today to give final approval to a fiscal year 2016 spending plan. Shumlin sought $8 million in last-minute reductions, but Caledonia Sen. Jane Kitchel said Friday morning there are too many unanswered questions about how Shumlin’s proposal would impact various programs.

“We’re obviously hearing a lot of concerns about some of the proposals,” Kitchel said.

Shumlin most controversially wants to cut another nearly $3 million from wages and benefits for state employees, and $2 million that would have otherwise gone to home weatherization subsidies.

The appropriations committee adopted part of Shumlin's plan, which would save about $1 million by changing the state's pharmacy benefit practices.

Shumlin says the larger cuts are needed to avoid some of the tax increases contained in a Senate bill that raises $37 million in new revenue. Shumlin says he’s particularly concerned about a proposal to cap the home-mortgage interest deduction at $12,000.

Kitchel’s committee hasn’t shut the door entirely on the governor’s proposed cuts, however. And Senate President John Campbell on Thursday expressed strong interest in finding new ways to trim spending.

"I've always said I much prefer cuts … or efficiencies to raising taxes," Campbell said.

A floor amendment will add language to the budget bill today that will direct House and Senate lawmakers to consider the proposed reductions when they iron out a grand compromise in committee of conference.