Vermonters are best advised to prepare for the headache, as the party at the State House is going strong. Under the Golden Dome, a spending spree that Vermonters can't afford is underway even before the costs of healthcare reform are on the table. Fiscal constraint, a way-of-life for most Vermont businesses and households, has few friends at the state house.
Consider this Vermont context that is readily known to statehouse leaders. Vermont's annual population growth of 3/10ths of one percent is anemic. The state economists' inflation estimate for 2014 is 2.2%. The average number of employed Vermonters over the past 12 months is 2,800 below that of the same period in 2008-2009. The level of wage growth for workers covered by unemployment grew at the low rate of 2.4% over the past three years. The current year increase in Vermont's Gross State Product is 2.2%. Vermont today has fewer people of working ages between 25 and 64 than in 2008.
Now compare the above economic/demographic indicators to what's happening at the state house.
The fiscal 2013 budget passed by the Legislature increased spending by 6.4%, from $4.716 billion to $5.019 billion. A portion of this increase was federal funds, but state taxes, fees and other state revenues increased by 4.8% or $97.7 million. Also, net education spending increased by $36.8 million causing property taxes to rise. Further, tens of millions of state mandated expenses were "cost shifted" onto our hospitals and electric rates.