What If There’s No Budget on July 1? 

by Rob Roper

The Vermont Democratic Party leadership held a press conference today (5/17/17) at the State House announcing a complete impasse with the Governor over a statewide teachers’ healthcare contract and the potential savings that could be derived from such a policy.

Asked specifically about what the timeline is for moving forward and what a date for adjournment might ultimately be, Sen. Ashe (D/P-Chittenden), and Speaker Johnson (D-South Hero) avoided the question with shrugs.

So what happens if there’s no budget by the start of the next fiscal year on July 1?

I have been asking this question since January (thinking that there would be a budget veto battle over increases in taxes and fees), and until today nobody has been able to give a definitive answer. Does funding continue at last year’s levels? Is there no money to fund government operations? If there is no money, does that force a government shutdown? What would that mean? Today some hints of clarity bubbled to the surface, but not too much.

If there is no budget, there is no money. That much is clear. The legislature would have to pass a continuing resolution to keep funding “essential” government operations. There is no definition of what “essential” is, as far as I found out. But, as one wag in the cafeteria commented, “We’d save a lot more than $26 million if we cut out all non-essential services!”

The Secretary of the Senate, couldn’t remember if a continuing resolution had ever been used for the budget, and indicated that there is still quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding the process. According to another source a continuing resolution was employed during the Keyser Administration (1961-63), when it took until August to reach agreement on a budget. Historical note: Keyser lost his bid for re-election to Phil Hoff, marking the last time in Vermont history that an incumbent governor lost a race.

At an afternoon caucus meeting, Republicans and at least one stalwart Independent made it clear that harvesting the savings from a statewide teachers’ healthcare contract to the benefit of property taxpayers has tri-partisan support, and they intend to hold firm if it comes to a budget veto. But the waiting game continues.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

H. Brooke Paige May 18, 2017 at 4:18 am

There is an interesting concept – “Funding Only Essential Operations !”

I thought that was the mission of the Legislature, maybe it’s time for the folks
in the golden bubble to take some advice from our own Cal Coolidge:

“The collection of any taxes which are not absolutely required, which do not beyond reasonable doubt contribute to the public welfare, is only a species of legalized larceny. Under this republic the rewards of industry belong to those who earn them. The only constitutional tax is the tax which ministers to public necessity. The property of the country belongs to the people of the country. Their title is absolute. They do not support any privileged class; they do not need to maintain great military forces; they ought not to be burdened with a great array of public employees.”

Inaugural Address, March 4, 1925

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Carol Frenier May 18, 2017 at 3:39 pm

I was under the impression from something I read a few months back that if a budget wasn’t passed, then there would be level spending with last year’s budget. I wish I could remember the reference.

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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.
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