Week Two of the legislative summer session saw the House approving another COVID-19 relief bill. This one builds on Governor Scott’s proposal and extends stimulus payments to many of those left out of the federal stimulus program – those who pay state and federal income taxes without providing a social security number, and their families. Most of the eligible people are migrant workers, many deemed “essential” during the pandemic for keeping Vermont farms and industries rolling.
In the latter half of the week, the house takes up the new budget bill. This is a unified, full year budget that combines the first quarter budget passed in June, adjustments made since then, and spending for the rest of the fiscal year.
It is a balanced budget that does not dip into reserve “rainy day funds”. But it does wring out savings and efficiencies including reallocating travel and conference budgets and eliminating some unfilled job positions while not compromising services.
When a new legislature convenes in January there will be, as there always is, a Budget Adjustment Act to true up actual spending and revenues with projections. With the current economic challenges, we can expect that process to be difficult, and that may be when the reserve funds will be tapped.
According to the National Council of State Legislatures, Vermont is the ONLY state that is not required by law to have a balanced budget. However we are one of the few that have always done so, and this budget is no exception.