Senate version of the fiscal 2017 budget
The fiscal 2017 budget made its way through the Vermont Senate this week along with tax and fee bills raising approximately $47.1 million in new revenue to support it.1 At $5.80 billion, the Senate’s version of the budget is $131.1 million above the final fiscal 2016 budget, an increase of 2.3 percent.
All three versions of the fiscal 2017 budget—Governor, House, and Senate—include increases in federal job training funding and increases in Protection to Persons and Property for crime victims’ services, military facilities and emergency management. Of the $24 million increase for the Agency of Natural Resources, $20 million is simply a technical change involving a federal loan program and not new spending. The Senate version reflects the most current estimate for Education Fund payments to school districts, which is $11.3 million lower than previous estimates.
Both houses added $1 million for the child care subsidy, increased funding for student aid at the Vermont State Colleges, and increased funding for designated regional mental health agencies by 2 percent. The Senate extended the latter increase to include non-designated human services community providers as well.
Labor contracts with state employees are still being finalized, but the Senate included funding for expected salary increases based on last week’s ruling by the Vermont Labor Relations Board, a total of $11.6 million. Increases for home health workers consistent with to their collective bargaining agreement were also included. The Senate made a point of carving out $1.3 million of transportation funding specifically for replacing state police cruisers.
Group therapy rates for mental health services were increased in the Senate plan as was funding for the Reach Up program, reducing the disability income offset instituted in 2015. The Senate included a rate increase for ambulance services, which the House endorsed but had not included due to time constraints.
The Governor, House and Senate all agreed to raise the fees on mutual funds, but both houses rejected the governor’s proposal for a provider assessment on dentists and independent physicians. The House’s plan for a tiered assessment on employers who don’t provide health care and an increase in the franchise fee on larger banks were also rejected by the Senate. The Senate is proposing to increase a variety of fees on securities broker-dealers and investment advisors, some of which were last changed in 2006 and some in 2008. These changes will yield $2.9 million in new revenue for the General Fund. In a separate bill, S. 243, the Senate increased the fee that prescription drug manufacturers pay on sales to the Department of Vermont Health Access, which will bring in $2.1 million for the Evidence-Based Education and Advertising Fund to fight prescription drug abuse.
- The bills are H.571 (driver restoration), H.872 (fees), H.873 (tax changes), H.875 (appropriations), and H.877 (transportation funding). [↩]
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