The truth is clear to see. With bi-partisan support, it’s your money they’re spending.
Since fiscal 2010, the year the Legislature overrode Governor Douglas’s budget veto and took the budget helm, the spending of state dollars (not including federal dollars) has increased from $1.760 billion to $2.387 billion, an increase of $627.5 million (up 35.7 percent) amounting to an annual growth rate of 5.2 percent. This does not include another $175.8 million in increased education fund spending driven by local school budgets.
The committee structure in the House and Senate hosts the Power Alleys where key decisions are crafted. The most recent event in spending growth is the 2016 budget adjustment recently passed by the House and Senate with bi-partisan Committee support and the subject of these Power Alley profiles.
As noted in the profiles, with the increase of $28.4 million of state dollar spending in the 2016 budget adjustment, the total year over year (2016 over 2015) spending increase is $114.67 million or 5.05 percent. At this growth rate, the spending of state dollars in 2016 is in line with the six year trend of 5.2 percent since 2010.
With Vermont’s economy growing at the annual rate of 2 to 3 percent, the above 5 percent growth rates are clearly unsustainable without more and more taxes and fees burdening Vermonters’ wallets. Unfortunately, our legislators and governor are focused on raising revenues to support every increasing budgets rather than bending the spending trajectory in line with economic growth.
Here’s what an alternative looks like. As Vermont emerged from the 1990-1991 recession, both Governors Snelling and Dean committed themselves to sustainable spending. Snelling raised taxes to protect the most vulnerable through the recession but simultaneously got language passed that sunset these tax increases once the state budget returned to sustainability. Dean stayed the course of Governor Snellings commitments, allowing budget growth of 1.85 percent, -2.16 percent, and 2.88 percent for fiscal years 1992, 1993, and 1994 respectively. Dean leveraged this constraint to bring necessary reforms in human services and education spending, the same areas that drive the budget today.
Unfortunately, few of our state house leaders exhibit much passion for sustainable spending and cost containment. In 2011, they abandoned their own effort, Challenges for Change, which had identified millions in potential cost savings opportunities applicable to fiscal 2011 and 2012.
Campaign for Vermont believes it’s up to you to tell your legislators of all political parties that enough is enough with regard to raising revenues and it’s time to find cost saving reforms. Over the coming week, Campaign for Vermont will provide you with viable ideas for such reforms to suggest and discuss with your legislators. Reform is never easy, but totally necessary if we are to put our state budget back on sustainable and stable ground. Please share these Power Alleys with your friends and neighbors.
Campaign for Vermont
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