143 to 1. That was the headline last week. The House budget plan that closed a $70 million gap without raising revenue had near-unanimous support.
The House’s version of the budget cobbled together $48 million in transfers, $17 million in savings and cuts, and $5 million in enhanced tax collections to create a budget that virtually everyone could agree on. While the plan appears to be popular inside the Statehouse, this budget does little to address the real issues Vermonters are facing outside.
Here are some other Vermont numbers worth thinking about:
47%: the share of single mothers with young children living in poverty
12%: the amount the middle class has shrunk since 1980
$304,465: the difference in income between a Vermont family in the bottom 20% and one in the top 5%
15,000: the number of Vermont children living in poverty
$25 million: the annual amount Vermont needs to raise to clean up Lake Champlain
665%: the increase in the cost of attending the University of Vermont since 1980
According to Vermont statute, the purpose of the state budget is “to address the needs of the people of Vermont.” While arriving at consensus and balancing the budget are important, especially against the national backdrop, neither is the goal of the annual budget exercise. The goal is to address the needs of the people of Vermont.
As the fiscal 2018 budget process continues, it needs to include more discussion about smart investments that will improve the lives of 625,000 Vermonters. That’s the most important number in this year’s budget debate.
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