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Budget Reduction Plan Approved Summary

The Joint Fiscal committee approved a revised rescission plan presented by the Shumlin administration to achieve $31.28 million in cuts to the state budget. The cuts were determined to be needed in light of a revenue shortfall. The reduction applies to the current Fiscal Year 2015 Budget passed in the 2014 Legislative Session.

On Monday the Shumlin Administration proposed direct cuts, delays in implementations, rescinding of increases and the use of savings earmarked for reinvestments among other mechanisms in Human Services to fill the budget gap shortfall.

Reduction documents - Link: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/JFO/budget_fy2015.aspx  

The original proposed plan included cuts in:

The Joint Fiscal Committee took testimony the day after the Budget Reduction plan was made public, which left many organizations scrambling to understand the impacts and implications of the reductions.

Many organizations and individual testified in person and/or submitted written testimony and comments. The testimony was very compelling and legislators indicated their regrets at having to reduce the current budget, but in the end wanted approve a reduction plan as soon as possible to avoid additional  reductions in future budgets, and indicated that their only authority was to recommendation changes in the Governor’s rescission plan and approve or disapprove.

The Joint Fiscal Committee has no authority to raise revenues and the Governor related once again his opposition to increases revenues through raising taxes.

At the Joint Fiscal meeting on Wednesday the Committee made some changes and asked the Administration to adjust their plan accordingly. The governor agreed and the Joint Fiscal Committee approved the new bust reduction plan.

The Joint Fiscal committee, after hearing the compelling testimony was successful in achieving at least a partial restoration of the most dramatic "direct cuts" in Developmental Disability Services, Choices for Care and Youth in Transition programs.

However, the largest reduction, the 1.6% Medicaid provider rate increase representing reductions in drug and alcohol treatment providers, as well as mental health service providers will go though.  The Joint Fiscal Committee indicated that they could not come up with the base revenues to restore it and they will revisit it in January in budget adjustment if they want to change it. It would have required base revenue of $3.2 million to restore the Medicaid rate increase.
  

Excerpts from VCDR Testimony in the News

Below is a summary of the changes and the final decisions by Joint Fiscal and news articles:
  
Highlights of decision:

One half of the Developmental Services one- time money restored ($1.15 million total out of the proposed $2.3 cut - $500 GF- includes family supports and flexible funding)

One half of the Choices for Care one-time funds were restored ($436K restored out of about $1 million proposed reduction – includes funding for the Home Access program and others). The general fund dollars were taken from the $4.5 Economic Incentive funds.

The Youth in Transition money was restored ($311K restored in total out of a $311K cut - out of one -time Medicaid funds.) 

The Administration renewed its commitment to use the Reach-Up caseload reserve to fund legislation passed last session including an Income Disregard increase and addition Child Care Reach-Up participants. (Funded out of Reach-Up caseload savings)

Lawmakers make slight alterations in $31 million budget cuts
VT Digger – Ann Galloway August 13 2014
http://vtdigger.org/2014/08/13/lawmakers-make-slight-alterations-31-million-budget-cuts/

Budget cuts hit drug treatment, family services
Laura Krantz Aug. 13 2014, 7:36 pm
http://vtdigger.org/2014/08/13/budget-cuts-hit-drug-treatment-family-services/

Below are excerpts from news articles on the testimony Tuesday, at the Joint Fiscal Public Hearing on the Budget Reduction Plan.

Excerpts from the testimony:

Advocates: Budget cuts would hurt - The Associated Press, Times Argus August 13
http://www.timesargus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140813/NEWS03/708139896?template=printart 

Kyle Moriarty, of Montpelier, is assisted by his communication facilitator, Erin Rose, of Calais, as he types the introduction to his statement on an iPad that then spoke in a synthesized voice Tuesday at the State House in front of a joint legislative committee taking testimony on the Shumlin administration’s proposed budget cuts. Moriarty said his facilitator allows him to function well enough to stay employed
   

Dozens of advocates for Vermont human services programs and some of the people they serve came to the State House on Tuesday to tell lawmakers to avoid budget cuts that would hurt low-income residents.

Tracy Thresher:

Tracy Thresher, of Barre, whose severe autism requires him to use a computerized communication device, told the Joint Fiscal Committee the 30 hours of direct aid he receives each week from Washington County Mental Health Services staff members is vital to his daily living and his ability to communicate.

Of such services, he said, “I absolutely believe it is our right as human beings.”

Dale Hackett:

Some advocates for groups serving mentally ill and low-income Vermonters said the process is moving too fast.

“We spent hours creating these policies” in committees during the legislative session, said Dale Hackett, of Barre, who described himself as a consumer advocate. “How long did it take to come up with that 4 percent cut (requested by Shumlin)? Two hours?”

Vermont lawmakers plan hearing on budget cuts
http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/Vermont-lawmakers-plan-hearing-on-budget-cuts-5682738.php
 
Nicole Le Blanc:

Nicole LeBlanc of the service consumer group Green Mountain Self Advocates asked why the emphasis was on service recipients making sacrifices, rather than taxpayers being asking to pay more. "What values are we using to guide are decision-making?" she asked.

Advocates for Vermont’s needy worry about impact of state budget cuts - NANCY REMSEN BFP August 13

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/politics/2014/08/12/concerns-voiced-effect-budget-cuts/13976655/  

Susan Yuan of Jericho testifies against cuts to the state budget proposed by the Shumlin administration at a meeting of the Joint Fiscal Committee at the Statehouse in Montpelier on Tuesday. 

Nicole Leblanc:

“Every time the state has a shortfall, you bal­ance the budget on those who need help the most,” complained Nicole Le-Blanc with Green Moun­tain Self Advocates.

Kyle Moriaity:

Kyle Moriarty, speak­ing with the help of a facili­tator and a tablet, pleaded with the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee to reconsider the budget cuts.

“If I can’t work because of staff cuts, I can’t do my job. Having this job brings purpose to my life,” Mori­arty said.

Lori Jones of Morris­ville also spoke of the im­portance of staff at La­moille County Mental Health Services. “I need my employment supports to keep me on task at my job.”

Susan Yuan:

Susan Yuan of Jericho, parent of an adult child with disability, lobbied to main­tain the small grants that help people address unan­ticipated needs. “This is the cushion that allows the state to be human. I urge you to preserve this tiny cushion.” Linda Olson, a faculty member at Castleton State College, was one of the few people to speak about a non-social service cut. She reminded lawmakers that taking back the 1 percent increase in funding for higher education means the state will continue to rank among the lowest for state support of its col­leges and university.

Social services providers and recipients plead for reprieve from proposed budget cuts - VT Digger
http://vtdigger.org/2014/08/12/social-services-providers-recipients-plead-reprieve-proposed-budget-cuts/#comments  

Tracy Thresher (right) testifies with the help of April McCandless and assistive speech technology on an iPad, as lobbyist Amy Shollenberger and Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor, look on. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger

Ed Paquin: 

Several witnesses, including Ed Paquin, president of the Vermont Coalition for Disability Rights, asked the committee members to slow down their deliberations.
“A public hearing with a day to look over the cuts does not reflect a real desire for input from any but those who may be connected in some way with professional advocacy,” Paquin said. “And even they may not have had sufficient time and opportunity to understand and assess the effects that these large changes may have.”

Julie Tessler  and Chris Curtis:

Julie Tessler, executive director of the Vermont Council of Developmental and Mental Health Services, said the proposed $6 million in cuts to development disabilities, mental health and substance abuse programs will result in a loss of $3.4 million in federal matching funds.

“If this was economic development, we would really question giving up $3.4 million,” Tessler said in testimony.

In Curtis’ written statement, he said he appreciates how much of the proposed cuts are based on “savings” from planned spending that appears to be coming in under budget. “That is generally a positive step,” Curtis wrote. But he and others pointed out that some of those savings — including the savings from a caseload reduction in Reach Up, the state’s welfare program — were intended for other purposes.

Before adjourning in May, the Legislature approved a plan to let recipients keep more of their take-home pay and retain child care subsidies longer, starting in the summer of 2015. That plan may be jeopardized by tapping Reach Up savings now, they say.

Advocates Warn Of Dangers Ahead If Lawmakers Approve Cuts - By Peter Hirschfeld   VPR- You can listen
http://digital.vpr.net/post/advocates-warn-dangers-ahead-if-lawmakers-approve-cuts

Karen Lafayette: 

“It always seems that the folks that need the most assistance to alleviate harmful circumstances, or help in strengthening their families, get hit the hardest,” said Karen Lafayette, a legislative liaison for the Vermont Low Income Advocacy Council.

Lafayette and other said proposed cuts in reimbursements rates to Medicaid providers will break budgets at the scores of service organizations that had rely heavily on those funds.

Sarah Laundervile:

Sarah Launderville, executive director of the Vermont Center for Independent Living, says the reduction plan would also take money from a special grant program designed to improve living conditions for disabled Vermonters.
“So somebody who has multiple sclerosis, we might pay for an air conditioner, so that somebody can breathe easily in their home, or wheelchair repair,” Launderville said.

Responses to the Administration’s Rescission Proposal:
http://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/jfc_meetings.aspx  

 

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by email: info@vcdr.org

VCDR can be contacted by phone via VCIL at:
Phone: 1-800-639-1522