Public Assets Institute > Blog > Governor prepares for 2016 cuts to state services

Governor prepares for 2016 cuts to state services

A month after announcing a 2 percent cut to the current year’s budget, the Shumlin Administration is signaling its intention to make additional cuts of as much as 5 percent and possibly more next year (fiscal 2016). For an already anemic state government that is suffering from staffing shortages and struggling to meet its obligations to residents, the administration’s directive cannot be good for Vermonters or for state employee morale.

The Department of Finance and Management sent fiscal 2016 budget instructions to state agency and department managers in mid-September. Managers have about a month to respond, explaining how they will deal with upward “pressures”—such as cost of living increases for state employees, caseload increases, contractual increases, loss of federal funding, inflation, and other new demands—and still meet their budget targets.

The administration laid out two scenarios for fiscal 2016:

  • Level funding—the same amount appropriated for this fiscal year after the cuts adopted in August.
  • Five percent cut from fiscal 2015 levels—again after the August cuts.

With both scenarios, the administration is requiring that agencies and departments absorb state employee salary increases put in place in fiscal 2015. So “level funding” really will mean less money for services next year than this year (see also 2011 blog on level funding). And because department managers are being warned there will be no state funds to make up for any cut in federal funds, except to meet “a critical state policy goal,” the second scenario is likely to produce cuts deeper than 5 percent.

While Vermonters expect a balanced budget, the fact that a budget is balanced does not make it adequate. State statute says: “The state budget should be designed to address the needs of the people of Vermont in a way that advances human dignity and equity.” Among the needs cited in the law are “health, housing, dignified work, education, food, social security, and a healthy environment.”

Next month when agencies and departments submit their responses to the governor’s budget targets, Vermonters also should get a look at what’s being proposed. Then they can judge whether the governor is preparing a budget that is adequate to provide the services they need or simply one that makes the numbers come out even.


Posted by Paul Cillo on September 30, 2014 at 8:23 am

One Response to “Governor prepares for 2016 cuts to state services”

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