The state held the second of two public forums Monday to give Vermonters a chance to weigh in on budget priorities.
The forums, mandated by the legislature last session, require the Governor to hold public meetings on budget priorities before the budget is written and presented to the legislature.
Participants at Monday’s final forum took part at Vermont Interactive Television sites around the state. […]
About two dozen people offered their comments, including advocates, social service workers, labor representatives, parents of children with disabilities and one business owner.
Many encouraged the administration to do more to protect the most vulnerable Vermonters and address issues like public transportation in rural areas and state support for higher education. […]
Representatives of the Vermont Worker’s Center, which pushed for the budget hearings legislation turned out at many hearing locations, including one in Randolph Center.
Traven Leyshon of the AFl-CIO challenged the administration’s contention that increased taxes would put Vermont at a competitive disadvantage. Leyshon called for higher taxes on the wealthy, which prompted an exchange with Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding who said Vermont has one of the most progressive income tax systems in the country.
When Leyshon pointed out that effective tax rates for wealthy Vermonters has declined, Spaulding observed, “That’s because of changes in the federal income tax.” He agreed that Vermont could increase taxes on wealthy individuals if the Governor and legislature decided to.
Spaulding says there are constant pressures on the state’s ability to maintain, much less expand services.
He says the budget that the Governor will present to the legislature early next year has not yet been written.