Public Assets Institute > Policy Areas > Education > Is the governor’s budget adequate? Who knows

Is the governor’s budget adequate? Who knows

Gov. Jim Douglas will present his eighth and final budget request to the Legislature next week. Unfortunately, Vermonters won’t have the information they need to determine whether the governor’s proposal is good or bad, adequate or inadequate.

That’s because Vermont doesn’t prepare annual estimates of the cost of providing the services and programs that it’s currently expected to deliver: a current services budget. What we’ll get is a budget that represents what the governor thinks Vermonters can afford. But we can’t make intelligent judgments about what we can afford if we don’t have a full and honest assessment of what things cost. A current services budget takes into account anticipated changes for things like inflation, increases in human services caseloads, or new eligibility rules.

Unless people can see the projected cost of services next to the level of funding the governor is proposing, they can’t really understand whether or not existing services will be cut. Their priorities could well be different from the governor’s.

Douglas has been arguing for years that Vermonters can’t afford their school budgets. But even in these difficult times, when voters have been given a choice between higher school taxes and reduced educational opportunities for their children, they’ve taken the former. They’ve concluded what they can’t afford to is to short-change their kids’ education.

The state isn’t giving us the kind of information that most local voters get about their school budgets: What will it cost to keep doing what we’re doing right now and what will we have to give up if funding is less than that? Without adequate information, we don’t know whether the governor is proposing to give departments 70 percent of the resources they need, 90 percent, or 40 percent.

We’ll get the new budget next week. We’ll probably be able to tell whether it proposes to spend more or less than this year. But we won’t know whether it moves us any closer to becoming the state we want, a state that works for all Vermonters.

Posted by Jack Hoffman on January 14, 2010 at 11:15 am

One Response to “Is the governor’s budget adequate? Who knows”

  1. Ralph W Howe says:

    Please take note of a recent bill ( I think it is H.516) on technology requiring the state to use open source technology when possible. This could save Vermont $5million/year on software contracts with MSoft—and provide funds for other purposes—plus make access to government records for all regardless of commercial software.