So earlier today, I reported that House Speaker Shap Smith had told the House Health Care Committee to stay within the revenue parameters of Governor Shumlin’s budget. Two people who were in the room had told me the message was unmistakable: proposals for increased revenue were out of bounds. In a phone conversation this morning, the Speaker confirmed the meeting and his message. But after my post went up, he sent me an e-mail arguing that I had failed to accurately convey his meaning.
In the interest of fairness, I reproduce his e-mail here. Take it away, Mr. Speaker…
I didn’t say no new revenue to the Health Care Committee and haven’t, in fact, said no new revenue to any committee. I have told the committees that our budget pressures are quite intense. We don’t have a lot of extra money lying around and I think that we have to be careful about spending more money than the governor proposed in his budget, even if I might like to.
If you count the EITC change by the governor and the tax on break open tickets, he raises $35 million to balance his budget (that doesn’t include the $30 million raised in gas tax revenue). It is clear to me that we will have to raise some money to even get to the spending level of the gov’s budget. The Governor also uses close to $50 million in one-time money in his budget to balance it. Even with new revenue proposed, our projections for the fiscal year 2015 budget suggest that we will be $85 million in the hole.
By the way, I have given the Health Care Committee space to have the conversation about the sugar sweetened beverage tax and if they choose to move forward with a vote, I don’t plan to put a kibosh on it.
My brief response… after the jump.
I can’t argue with anything the Speaker said above. He did not absolutely rule out new revenues, and he has allowed the Health Care Committee to discuss the “soda tax.” At the same time, although his words were not absolute, my two witnesses received a very clear message: work within the Shumlin budget.
Still, my headline referring to the committee getting its “marching orders” is overly dramatic. As are many headlines, both here and in the “real media.”
Smith also makes some good arguments for holding the line on spending, given our outlook in future years. His points deserve consideration.
I respect Shap Smith and his views on the budget and on my previous diary. But I’m comfortable with what I wrote, and I hope he respects that.