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

New Taxes To Ease State's $100 Million Budget Gap Unlikely

Wilson Ring
The administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin, shown here in October, will present a budget that doesn't include tax increases, despite the state's $100 million gap. Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding says new revenue would only be a one-time solution.

More than 100 lawmakers came to the Statehouse on Wednesday to get a detailed briefing about the state's budget situation. Because a number of tax sources are not meeting projections, including the personal income tax, the state is now facing a $100 million gap in the next fiscal year.

Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding told the group that simply addressing this problem with new revenue represents a one-time solution to an ongoing problem.

That's why Spaulding says the administration will try to present a budget that doesn't include any tax increases. Instead, the plan will reduce the growth rate in state spending.

"Over the last two years general fund spending went up more like 5.5 percent. So for anybody who thinks you can just raise taxes and get out of this, if your base is only going up 3 to 3.5 percent , even if you raise taxes you're going to be right in the same situation the following year," said Spaulding.

"Even if you raise taxes, you are going to be right in the same situation the following year." - Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding

House Minority leader Don Turner is in total agreement with the administration's approach.
"I think the taxpayers made that loud and clear during this election. The cost of living in Vermont is too high; it's not sustainable," said Turner. "So I don't think additional revenue is on the table today."

David Zuckerman is a Progressive senator from Chittenden County. He's concerned that raising taxes to pay for the budget gap could have a negative impact on the effort to finance a single payer health care system.

"Implementing single payer is by far the most important piece on the table," said Zuckerman. "If that somehow isn't going to happen then I would certainly consider raising revenues to deal with other human services needs but politically I'm not sure both would be possible in one session."

The governor will unveil his budget proposal for 2016 to a joint session of the Legislature in the middle of January.

Update 2:56 p.m. Nov. 20, 2014 This post has been updated to clarify the fact that a tax increase to fill the state's budget gap is unlikely, but the Shumlin administration has not yet made a hard and fast refusal.

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."
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