October 2, 2015
VPR reports on September 30 that, after months of knowing, the State finally revealed to lawmakers this week that Vermont has to pay an extra week’s Medicaid benefits in this fiscal year because there are more that 52 weeks in 2015; an anomaly the story says occurs every five to seven years. How much? According to the story, Vermont “is on the hook” for $18 million due to the oversight, which the federal government will pay roughly $10 million, leaving Vermont with a new $8 million budget hole.
Secretary of the Administration Justin Johnson tells VPR that the State chose not to reveal the information because, he explains, “At the time we put the budget together, it was determined because it was a flexible piece we would wait for budget adjustment and see what things were looking like.”
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jane Kitchel says lawmakers depend on the State to keep them updated on matters like these, telling the reporter, “When we’re building the budget, I guess the question that needs to be asked was, ‘are there any anticipated expenditures that are not reflected in your budget request as you’re presenting it to us?’”
Speaker Shap Smith echoes Kitchel’s sentiment and adds that he believes the Legislature’s lack of staffing may have contributed to him and other lawmakers not learning about the State’s intended omission, explaining, “It does point to a challenge within the process, which is that the Legislature is under-staffed and under-resourced, and to a certain extent we are reliant on the [State] for providing us with the information that helps us build the budget."
Note: No indication yet of how the State intends to cover the new $8 million budget shortfall, but, as always, state employees will have to be on guard.
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