Vt. Set To Lose Estimated $15 Million If Sequester Takes Effect

02/26/13 5:50PM By Bob Kinzel
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AP File/Toby Talbot
Speaker Shap Smith is seen holding a news conference in Montpelier in this 2012 file photo.

House Speaker Shap Smith says the possibility of new budget cuts from Washington could cause enormous problems with Vermont's budget for next year.  

The threat of sequestration cuts comes at a time when the House Appropriations committee is trying to finalize its budget plan for next year.

And one of the key uncertainties hanging over the committee's work is how long the federal cuts will last - a month, two months or the rest of the fiscal year.

House Speaker Shap Smith says he's keeping a very close eye on this situation:

"The budget that we've got in front of us is very tight we don't have a lot of give in the budget and anything that comes down from Washington at this point in time may upset the apple cart."

It's estimated that Vermont will lose $15 million if the cuts take place. The majority of the cuts will affect education, mental health and environmental programs, and as many 1,000 defense related workers could be furloughed.

If the cuts go into effect, Smith says it will be hard to fund some of the Governor's new spending initiatives including child care, energy, and Medicaid.

"I think that it may mean that some of the spending that's been proposed by the Governor may not be able to happen."

Westford Rep. Martha Heath is the chair of the House Appropriations committee.

"I would say that the biggest thing is that our tough job got made tougher."

And Heath questions if there are sufficient state resources to restore funding for the programs that are cut at the federal level.

"Some of the programs that are going to see pretty big cuts are things like Title One programs in education you know I think we're not likely to back fill that but that will be tough on school districts."

And Heath thinks some of the Governor's new spending plans were in trouble before the sequestration.

"So because the funding sources are problematic it may not even be a place that we go backfill."

Heath was hoping that her committee could take final action on the budget by the end of next month but she says the sequestration process could delay this timetable.





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