Dear Editor, Nitka’s notes from the State House

 

The House of Representatives passed their budget, titled, The Appropriations Bill, H-518 with only one no vote out of their 150 member body earlier in the month. This week the Senate passed their version of the budget on a 30 to 0 vote. This means that Democrats, Independents, Republicans and Progressives were satisfied with these budgets. In the Senate two persons who had never before in their years in the Senate voted positively for a budget, did so this time. One usually wanted more spending and the other less. The next step will be a Conference Committee to iron out the differences in the choices where each body chose to spend the money.

The two lead negotiators on opposite sides of the three member teams will be sisters, one the second oldest in their family of ten and the other the youngest. They grew up on a farm in Danville, Vermont and still live nearby, seeing each other for regular Sunday dinners, and carpooling back and forth to the State House. Some folks want to watch the dynamics but I think they are quite used to negotiating with each other and anyone else for that matter. The votes were historic and so is this Conference Committee with these two sisters, who each chairs a powerful Appropriations Committee.

The budget has money for every state agency and Department: Corrections, the Military, Health Care, Education, Treasurer’s office, States Attorneys, Agriculture, Human Services, Transportation and much more. One of the sections I reported on was the Agency of Natural Resources where we will spend one hundred thirty five million dollars, basically the same amount as last year. This includes federal and state money. Since I saw a lot of wildlife on my way to Montpelier this week: deer, a moose, a very large snapping turtle, a bedraggled fox, a porcupine and turkeys, some information about the Natural Resources Divisions that manage these creatures and their habitat follows. Fish and Wildlife will stock more than two million fish in public waters. (Do buy a license as trout fishing has started and the department needs the money.)

Game wardens number thirty-six and they are recruiting men and women who qualify to join the force. The Forest Parks and Recreation Department is responsible for 52 developed parks, their operation and maintenance and are budgeted to spend 10.6 million. The Forest Highway Maintenance Division maintains approximately 600 miles of roads located in timber extraction sites, parks and on mountains. There is an ever-increasing use by the public and a demand for access. They have a lean budget at $180,000. In the Environmental Conservation Department’s Office of Water Programs, projected spending is forty-eight million as they are responsible for ensuring that the state’s 1,400 public water systems provide clean and safe water. They additionally cover all public buildings, campgrounds and single-family residences.

Committees are attaching many bills to other bills in an effort to get them passed with a bill that is likely to survive. It is thus very hard to follow some bills as their numbers have changed.

Visit the State House to hear the debates on the floor.Contact me at home at 802-228-8432 or anitka@leg.state.vt.us

 

Senator Alice Nitka

Montpelier, Vt.

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