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

Scott Administration Seeks Web-Only Public Input On State Budget

Vermont Statehouse dome on a cloudy day.
Kirk Carapezza
The Scott administration says its web-only process for gathering public input will make it easier for residents to weigh in on the state budget, but critics say it is a poor stand-in for public hearings.

A few years ago, Vermont enacted a law that tries to give the general public a bigger role in the budget writing process, but one legislator says the Scott administration isn’t following the spirit of the statute.

Instead of holding public hearings, as was done in the past, the Scott administration has chosen to seek public input on the budget through digital platforms this year. Washington County Sen. Anthony Pollina says the online survey being used to collect that input doesn’t offer a meaningful mechanism for residents to weigh in.

“The fact is that a survey … is a really poor substitute for a public participation process,” Pollina says. “The survey is asking people very broad questions in an attempt supposedly to get their opinions, but it really limits the ability of anybody to really have their say about how the budget is going to affect them or their lives.”

Commissioner of Finance Adam Greshin says the administration’s approach is designed to improve public participation, not thwart it.

“Instead of asking people to conform to our schedule, we’re asking them to conform to whatever schedule works for them,” Greshin says.

And Greshin says that in addition to the online survey, the administration has created a special web page where residents can submit written comments directly to the governor’s office.

“And we make sure that all the members of the budget team read every comment, and they factor into our decision making, as any advocacy group would,” Greshin says.

The public may get yet get an opportunity to weigh in on the budget in person. Danville Rep. Kitty Toll, the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, says her committee might hold public hearings on the budget in communities around the state early next year.

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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