Who knows better?

Who knows better the needs of a community than the people who live in that community? It’s a good question. This short video about participatory budgeting in New York City asks that question directly and discusses how some communities are beginning to participate in their city’s budget process.

In Vermont, town meeting gives citizens a direct say in their town’s budget and the opportunity to discuss community needs. After all, the purpose of a public budget is to address citizens’ needs.

But for the state budget, there is little done to assess Vermonters’ needs. In fact the focus of the state budget process is money: assessing how much money will come in at existing tax rates and deciding what to cut to balance the budget. It’s one thing to be fiscally responsible—which the state certainly needs to be— but it’s another to fail to address Vermonters’ needs because we haven’t attempted to find out what they are.

That’s where the People’s Budget comes in. It is a new approach to the state budget that reconnects Vermonters with their government by bringing the budget process back into balance: making assessment of Vermonters’ needs as important as assessing state revenues and including “meaningful public participation” as Vermont law requires. Jack Hoffman’s recent op-ed discusses how a people’s budget can better meet Vermonters’ needs.

The Shumlin Administration has begun work on their fiscal 2015 budget and will be holding budget forums, scheduled for October 23rd and November 5th on Vermont Interactive TV. This is one opportunity to participate. There should be many more—because there really is no one who better understands the state’s needs than the people who live here.

Posted by Paul Cillo on October 2, 2013 at 2:34 pm

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