Things are moving at lightning speed in the Statehouse. One minute, there is talk of cutting everything, the next it's been restored.
Sens. Peter Shumlin, Susan Bartlett and Jane Kitchel came back from Washington this week feeling pretty good about the stimulus package that's brewing down there. There will be enough federal stimulus money to avoid cutting programs such as VPharm and Reach Up this year ($3 million-plus more will do it). Meanwhile, they said, they will work on making programs more affordable for next year.
Gov. Jim Douglas was dubious today of lawmakers' willingness to make those changes. Some legislators get it, he said, but some don't. Those who don't, he inferred, think you can use federal money to plug holes then resume on course with the leaky ship in 2011.
Shumlin and Bartlett also indicated no way are they going to lay off 600 state workers. It would be bad for the economy, they said, and those workers are going to be needed to put the federal stimulus money to work. Instead of layoffs, they are looking for concessions from the union on hours and such.
Douglas again is dubious. State government has grown too much and needs to shrink, he said. Though he indicated a willingness to talk about the union contract, he also indicated that would not be enough - he wants long-term changes. "We have to make some of these difficult choices," he said.
- Terri Hallenbeck