As the Legislature's Joint Fiscal Committee was launching into a public hearing today on $28 million in budget cuts at the Statehouse, Gov. Jim Douglas was holding a news conference next door.
He said it's possible, based on the economic forecast, that $28 million won't be the end of the cuts coming this year.
When it comes to the $28 million, which includes $7.4 million in payroll savings, he suggested that things might be different this time in negotiations with the union. "Times are different now," he said.
The administration and the Vermont State Employees will meet for the first foray into those negotiations Wednesday, Administration Secretary Neale Lunderville said.
Douglas said state government will have to find new, creative ways of doing things. He pointed to a new program announced Tuesday that automates notifications to victims about the status of offenders. He could not, however, say whether that new program will allow the state to reduce staffing.
Douglas did not mourn the possible demise of the "public option" in federal health care reform, saying funding for one of the existing public health-care plans - Medicaid - is unsustainable. He said he fears states will eventually be left holding the money bag on a public plan.
Asked about the talk that Congress was planning to create "death panels" through its health-care reform measure, Douglas suggested that the argument was off-base - sort of. "That's an example of the kind of rhetoric that's distracting us from fundamental reform," he said.
But he did not come out and denounce the death-panel debate nor would he say he felt confident the proposed legislation didn't include death panels. He said that like most members of Congress he had not read every word of the legislation.
In other news, Douglas plans to take advantage of Saturday's sales tax holiday. He's buying a new kitchen stove, he said. Dorothy insisted.
- Terri Hallenbeck
Labels: Gov. Jim Douglas, health care, sales tax, state budget cuts, vermont politics