Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Vermont Legislature
Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

2014 Session To Look At Budget, Health Care And Opiate Abuse

Angela Evancie
The floor of the Vermont House.

The 2014 Legislative session kicks off Tuesday with lawmakers convening in Montpelier for the first day, which is largely ceremonial.

But soon, they’ll be digging into the big issues and challenges facing the state. VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb and Bob Kinzel discuss some of what lawmakers will be looking at this session.

State Budget

Legislators will be dealing with a $70 million budget shortfall.  Budget shortfalls are not new, but in pervious years there has been stimulus funding and other state funds available to close those gaps. Now that money is gone and lawmakers are going to have to reduce spending. It may be a time when both the House and Senate Appropriations Committee take a look at the hundreds programs in state government and say it’s time to put money into those that work and maybe eliminate those that don’t. The biggest part of the budget is for the Agency of Human Services. This could mean difficult decisions about programs that directly affect people and the quality of their lives.

If specific budget cuts are announced it could fuel calls to raise taxes. Some Democrats and Progressive lawmakers will support an income tax surcharge on the wealthy to preserve programs. It’s expected that the Governor Shumlin will oppose plans to raise taxes, and he’ll have to get together a coalition of conservative Republicans and Democrats on board if he wants to defeat that effort.

Education Funding

Lawmakers are expected to discuss the way Vermont pays for education. But it’s unclear if 2014 will be the year that the state’s approach changes significantly. The number of enrolled public school students has been on the decline for the past decade, there are 20,000 fewer students. Meanwhile, school budgets are increasing, and for the second year in a row, the statewide property tax rate is facing a significant increase because school spending in aggregate across Vermont is going up.

Lawmakers might encourage local towns to keep spending down. They could lower the current threshold where towns pay penalties for additional spending. A more controversial approach would be changes to income sensitivity. That’s the program that allows some people to pay education taxes based on their income, not the value of their property, but changes to that program are bound the be controversial.

Health Care

The House Health Care Committee has scheduled a week of oversight on Vermont Health Connect. Lingering questions about its effectiveness of the online exchange could dominate the first part of the session.  The governor will be addressing the House and Senate Health Care committees on Tuesday.

The push toward a single-payer system could also be a topic of discussion this session. Governor Shumlin has decided to outline the menu of taxes that could be used to fund a single-payer system. That system is expected to cost $2 billion, and the governor wants to put it in place by 2017.

Opiate Abuse

The governor is expected to outline a plan to address the problem in his State of the State address. That plan could include new rehab programs for first-time offenders to keep them out of jail if they complete the program.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
Latest Stories