State News
February 20, 2019

Notes to home

By Sen. Dick McCormack   

Legislators representing the Springfield region are carefully monitoring developments at Springfield Hospital. The Scott Administration is working with the hospital board and administrators to deal with these highly complex financial issues. They’ve asked for time and patience to work things out, and for politicians to exercise restraint. I’m sorry to disappoint folks who look to their legislators to give voice to their anger, but I think the plea for calm and restraint is reasonable and necessary to work through the situation.

Since convening in January, the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC), on which I serve, has spent most of our time on the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Adjustment Act (BAA). The Senate has passed this bill which is now in a conference committee to reconcile differences between the Senate and House versions. The BAA is a true up to correct for differences between expected revenues and expenses, circa spring 2018, and actual revenues and expenses, circa January 2019. It’s also sometimes used as a vehicle for structural changes, but we generally try to avoid using the BAA for big policy changes.

The SAC has now turned its attention to the state budget for fiscal year 2020 (July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020). Under the Vermont Constitution spending bills must begin in the House of Representatives. But in practice the process begins with the Governor’s recommended budget. It is a recommendation only, a template from which the Legislature works, but it carries enough weight that many of my colleagues mistakenly call it “the Budget.”

Although the appropriations bill is still in the House, the SAC is now considering the proposed budget, department by department, in anticipation of the bill eventually reaching the Senate. Witnesses for the various departments testify to the full committee. In addition, each committee member is responsible for evaluating the budgets of particular departments.

Senate Republican leader Joe Benning and I spoke to the Senate Education Committee to urge passage of our bill to require the inclusion of civics in Vermont’s high school curriculum. I held forth on the issue in a previous legislative report. The bill has met with some resistance based on the possibility of controversy. I think some controversy is not only tolerable in a democratic system, it’s desirable.

The Senate Government Operations Committee has taken up the proposal to delete the Vermont Constitution’s prohibition of slavery.

Dick McCormack is a Windsor County senator.

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