WILMINGTON -- If there was one thing that Rep. Ann Manwaring and Sen. Bob Hartwell could not stress enough, it was that cutbacks are coming.
"We are, once again like every year since the recession started, beginning the budget with a gap," said Manwaring, during a recent meeting with the Wilmington Selectboard. "There's a little bit of a different reality. Every year, when we had to close this budget gap, we've been able to find rollover things. There's none of that left. The question is: Are there things we have to stop doing? We will be taking a serious look that."
Hartwell referred to that gap as a deficit.
"There is no money in the cupboard anymore," he said. "We have a chronic deficit."
Either way, Manwaring said that towns should be prepared. Just how municipalities would be structurally affected by future cutbacks in spending, she could not say.
"I hope you all will take a closer look this year than you have in the past," Manwaring said of the budget. "It's going to pop up in places that are not necessarily expected."
She said that towns may want to look further at how they handle their finances and having reserve funds because "there won't be the kinds of federal grants we used to get."
Her biggest concern going into the upcoming legislative session was the state's budget and education funding. She wants to address how children around the state are not receiving the same education opportunities but there is a base rate for education related taxes.
"Do we know two kids in the state who have the same needs?" she asked.
Two bills are in the works for Hartwell.
One is related to economic development that would propose to create a two year budget that might have the effect of freezing some spending on the second year.
"There's a lot of provisions on lenders' licenses that are loose ends," he said, referring to the bill. "And student debt continues to be a drag on the economy. I'm very concerned and continue to be amazed at how rapidly the property taxes are going to (rise)."
The property tax that would hit resort community towns in the Deerfield Valley especially hard because it would be for those who are not paying homestead education taxes. It's a second homeowner issue, Hartwell explained.
"I tried to shake things up enough for (legislators) to think about that," he added.
The other bill that Hartwell has been pushing for is a result of the impending closure of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon. The bill would require Entergy, the company which owns the plant, to continue putting money into a clean air fund.
Also mentioned was the senator's growing concern with drug and mental health issues in the state.
"That's bordering out of control," he said. "There's a lot of law enforcement activity then a mental health situation from (Tropical Storm) Irene. And we have a lot more people in jail. It's the place of last resort."
Around Vermont, Hartwell explained, people are being picked up and being jailed when they should not be. They have no other place to go.
"It's a huge and expensive problem," said Hartwell.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.