Nitka’s notes from the Statehouse May 4, 2018

Dear Editor,

These are the last few weeks of the session and all bills that are going to pass will need to do so before we adjourn. Should any be vetoed by the governor, there may or may not be a veto session to sustain or override the veto. The remainder of the 900-plus bills introduced in the House and the 300 in the Senate that don’t pass, or aren’t attached to another bill that is passing, will be dead. They will need to be introduced again by the group of legislators elected in the November elections or perhaps never show up again. There will be many old and new ideas surfacing to be worked on in the next two-year session. As it was these past two years, some proposals receive overwhelming support. Others never see the light of day while still others are hotly debated by the House, Senate, and the public. Our state is diverse when it comes to opinions, and some of it is based on geographic locations. The needs of the people in Stamford, who do most of their shopping and business in Massachusetts, versus the citizens of Derby Line at the northern end of the state, whom are dealing with border crossing issues, don’t always have much awareness of the other’s needs and issues.

The big bills moving these days are the capital bill with all the construction money in it; the education finance and tax bill; the transportation bill which includes roads, bridges, and the like – $610.8 million of which $319 million is federal money; and the appropriations bill, H.924, which is the budget for the state and includes the transportation money. Proposed spending in the budget from the general fund – state dollars – is $1.59 billion, and overall spending is $5.85 billion. The total spending includes all the federal money for Medicaid, the military including the National Guard, education, health care, natural resources, and human services. Other federal money passes through the state to specific federal projects and is managed by the state thus it is included in the total spending. The budget for last year was general fund spending of $1.55 billion and overall spending of $5.8 billion. Yikes! It is a lot of money.

This year, there is some one-time money available; $10 million of that will be used to pay down teachers’ retirement, which was not fully funded years ago. Putting the $10 million in will save $30 million in interest payments. One million will go to the Brattleboro Retreat for 12 new mental health beds to be developed; $500,000 will be spent to increase energy efficiency in state buildings; $400,000 will be used for drug treatment for inmates; youth employment will receive $300,000; and much more as well putting money in a reserve fund. As this money came from a tobacco settlement lawsuit, $2 million will be used for tobacco cessation and prevention. Other one-time spending from the general fund will go to dairy farms to pay interest on loans and to do margin protection premium assistance, microbusinesses, state marketing, Working Lands Program, unification of Lyndon and Johnson State Colleges, woodstove change outs, a decarbonization study and more.

Stop by if you are in the area, have lunch in our cafeteria, and take a tour. Contact me at home at 802-228-8432 or anitka@leg.state.vt.us. I am able to read all of your emails and appreciate you sending them; however, the volume received makes it impossible to respond to all of them.

Sincerely,

Sen. Alice Nitka

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