State budget process is about more than fiscal issues. It is also about our values.

WARDSBORO — According to the governor in a recent letter, “putting together a budget is never an easy task,” he says, as he likens the state to families deciding between “groceries and medicine” as the way to “live within their means.”

The Vermont Constitution requires that the state budget should “be instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people,” and state law says the state must “recognize every person's need for health, housing, dignified work, education, food, social security, and a healthy environment.”

Continuing a seven-year downward spiral, the budget bill reduces funding for home fuel assistance and weatherizing, mental-health and substance-abuse treatment, libraries, pre-kindergarten, community high school, Reach Up, Vermont Legal Aid, health care, public health, autism and geriatric programs, state employees, people with developmental disabilities, and adult day care.

House Republicans go further, wanting to cut or get rid of homeowner and renter property-tax rebates; health-insurance assistance, including pharmacy payments for elders; grants to the Vermont Humanities Council, the Vermont Arts Council, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the Vermont Commission on Women; labor-negotiated health-care plans; a child-care subsidy for poor mothers; funding for state colleges; substance-abuse recovery centers; psychiatric- and substance-abuse-designated agencies; public control over the state psychiatric hospital and the Vermont Veterans Home; and other state responsibilities.

The task before us - to live within our means - might be easier than the governor suggests.

Numerous proposals from the Public Assets Institute, state employees, the Vermont Workers' Center, and others offer structural fiscal changes to reverse seven years of negative budgeting, turn state deficits into surpluses, and lighten the tax burden on working Vermont families.

To comply with state law and to fully provide for all of us, we must create a budget in which no Vermonter has to choose between groceries and medicine.

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