Vermont's Budget Appropriations

The General Assembly completed work on the fiscal year 2020 budget (H.542 ) on May 24th. The budget goes into goes into effect on July 1st, 2019. As always, it is a balanced budget with expected revenues covering allocated expenses. Total expenditures are $6.1 billion, a 2.6% increase over the previous year.

The chart below gives the amount in $1,000s. "EF" means Education Fund. "GF" means General Fund. The percents are the percent increase over the last year and the last five years.

Pension Funds

Vermont's pension fund liability is a significant concern. Eliminating that liability, overtime, is a legislative priority.

There are three State retirement systems: the Vermont State Teachers’ Retirement System (VSTRS), the Vermont State Employees Retirement System (VSERS), and the Vermont Municipal Employees’ Retirement System (VMERS). Currently hey are funded at the following levels:

  • VMERS Municipal - 82.2%
  • VSERS State Employees - 70.7%
  • VSTRS Teachers - 55.2%

The goal is to bring those numbers up to 100% by 2035. Since 2007, when a 30-year catch-up plan was established, that contribution has been no less than 100% of the amount needed to achieve that catch-up. This year, as an example, State policymakers committed $120 million to the system, with the understanding that an average of $150 million will be required each of the next twenty years. The state hasalso used one-time revenue to bump up the financial underpinnings of VSTRS and VSERS with the result that we are on target to save taxpayers approximately $1.3 billion in interest payments by 2038.

The Environment

This year’s budget includes investments in:

  • $2.8 million for electric vehicles and charging stations;
  • $38 million for public transit subsidies and park & ride facilities;
  • $35 million for rail subsidies and upgrades;
  • $16 million for home weatherization assistance for Vermonters of low and moderate income;
  • $500 thousand for conservation of significant lands for forest integrity and watershed protection;
  • $50 million for “clean water” efforts

Total budgetary investment in our environment, including existing and new funding, is $167 million.

Other Expenditures

The budget bill first passed the House, then went to the Senate. It cam back to the House with Senate changes. At that point a committeeofconference was set up and differences worked out. The following is a summary of the committee of conference report that was then approved by both the House and the Senate. This information comes from this document, produced by the Joint Fiscal Office. The asterisks denote the use of one-time money that may not be available next year.

Climate Change

  • Spread between several bills, the Legislature has made available approx. $17M to Weatherization Programs with $2.3M in the budget bill. The budget maintains $600K in base, adds $390K for fuel tax base clarification changes, and $1.3M* of one-time funds.
  • The Budget adds $2.9 million for EVs and charging stations; $1.7M* for Electric Vehicles and emissions incentive for low and moderate income individuals, adds funds for charging stations, including $300K TF for statewide charging stations in AOT; $500K* in BGS, including purchase of EVs for State fleet; and $400K in ANR from VW mitigation funds.
  • Provides $500K* for acquisition and conservation of forestlands that are important for carbon absorption and provides a legacy for future generations of Vermonters.
  • Extends the agreement between BGS and EVT for energy efficiency programs in State buildings.

Workforce and Economic Development

  • Adds $7.4M, including $5.8M base and $1.6M* one-time funds, for Childcare to support families and providers, including system investments* and workforce incentive pilots*.
  • Reserves $2M* for economic development and $1.54M* of funding for broadband investments, both determined in concurrent bills.
  • Restores $1M to VHCB base funding.
  • Funds a variety of forest and agriculture development programs including: Grant writing assistance $75K*, Working lands $1M* with half for the Dairy industry, Farm-to-School $50K, VOREC $100K*, and logger safety and value-added forest products $120K*.
  • Vermont State Colleges supported with increase of $2.5M in base and $500K* one-time funds, 2+2 scholarship $18K, and $200K* associate degree pilot. Provides opportunities for students following alternative paths with Advancement Grants of 500K* through VSAC and adds $150K for DOL Summer Youth Employment Program.
  • Adds $100K* micro-business development, $5K* for Arts Council, and $25K* for USS VT.
  • Adds $70K to provide services to New Americans though the Department of Labor.

Needs of Children, Families, and Vulnerable Vermonters

  • Expands Medicaid dental coverage for adults beginning Jan. 1, 2020 to allow for two annual cleaning visits and a $1,000 annual cap on dental services. $1.08M total funding. $1.4M investment in the child welfare system addresses caseload pressures including new social workers and other positions in addition to a rate increase for foster care.
  • Adds $1.3M for Parent Child Center master grant funding for the services they provide to young families.
  • Mental Health: Provides $1.5M (all funds) to place complex mental health patients in appropriate community placements, reducing the stress on hospitals. Funds operation of 12 new acute beds at the Brattleboro Retreat to come online in late 2020. Funds statewide peer support program - $60K*.
  • Adds $2.5M to provide a benefit increase in the Reach Up Program. VT LEG #342434 v.2
  • Provides Families with a disabled parent an additional $38 a month.
  • Adds $250K for nursing home residents to increase the personal needs allowance $25 a month, starting Jan. 1, 2020.
  • Maintains school support program for LGBTQ youth with $60K and provides funding for the Ethnic and Social Equity and Campus Sexual Harm bills.
  • Adds $50K for fentanyl testing strips.
  • Provides $85K for Human Right Commission outreach position, $89K for Deaf and Deaf/Blind services position, $25K for VT Legal Aid caseloads, $94,000 to address caseload pressures in public defense, and $85K for Court Interpreters in the Judiciary.

Critical Provider Systems

  • Designated Agencies: Provides a $5.2M increase across entire system of mental health and developmental services and $1.5M* to begin the development of an electronic medical records system.
  • Provides $2.1M for a 2% increase for home and community service providers in the Choices for Care program. Adds funds for the SASH program to transition administration to the ACO as more Medicare lives are attributed.
  • Provides $375K* to the Department of Mental Health for emergency room security in small hospitals.
  • Funds $445K for Court Diversion.
  • Provides $1M* for infrastructure improvements at the Parent Child Centers with report language.
  • Provides 5% increase for court security services.
  • Provides $243K for a rate increase to local ambulance (EMS) service providers.

Maintenance of Basic Government Functions

  • Funds Retirement/OPEB obligations for State employees and teachers of approx. $200M in general funds.
  • Adds $500K* for statewide IT network upgrades and security investment through ADS.
  • Adds $948K* to support known State match requirements for past emergencies, floods, etc.
  • Adds $50K* Funds for mosquito control for total funding of $135K.
  • Funds Dual Enrollment program 50% from EF and 50% from the GF. Adjusts State-Placed Student line item to reflect funding needs in FY19 and FY20.