Extreme temperatures -- deep cold alternating with freezing rain and flooding -- have made maintaining the state's highways this year a challenge. So much so that the Agency of Transportation has asked for a $1.3 million increase in funding for road maintenance this winter.
A legislative panel has approved the additional spending for the Transportation Fund in addition to the Shumlin administration's $12 million mid-year budget adjustment proposal for the fiscal year 2014 General Fund.
The House Appropriations Committee passed the Budget Adjustment Act in a 10-1-0 vote on Friday afternoon. Rep. Phil Winters, R-Williamstown, cast the only dissenting vote. His two fellow Republicans on the panel endorsed the proposal.
Rep. Martha Heath, D-Westford and chair of House Appropriations, said the final numbers are very close to the governor's recommended budget adjustment and includes $200,000 in funding for reducing the wait list at methadone clinics.
"There's not a lot of big news in this budget, which is what a budget adjustment should be," Heath said.
The additional costs include an increase in Medicaid spending of $7 million, $3.2 million in funding for the state's emergency housing program, $2.85 million for a budget deficit at the Vermont Veterans' Home in Bennington, $1.55 million for the incarceration of an unanticipated number of prison detainees, $2.77 million for unexpected rental costs for state offices and $570,000 for the Brattleboro Retreat.
The Shumlin administration recommended that lawmakers eliminate the General Fund balance reserve to cover most of the revenue shortfall. Most of the rest of the difference came from carryforwards and a health insurance rate holiday for the state and state employees.
Thanks to last week's rosy revenue forecast, the House Appropriations Committee was able to restore $8.5 million to the rainy day fund and put $4.4 million in a fund to cover federal sequestration cuts.