Tag Archives: Rebecca Wasserman

A moment of sanity in the corner office

Apparently the Governor realized it wasn’t a good idea to begin a new biennium with an inter-branch standoff over budget cuts.

The Shumlin administration has decided not to unilaterally cut $6.7 million from the current fiscal year’s budget. The rescissions instead will be included in the executive branch’s budget adjustment proposal to the Legislature in January.

Can we hear a brief rendition of Fanfare For A Single Kazoo?

[Administration Secretary Jeb] Spaulding said the administration agreed to wait on rescissions, but will “slow down” spending in the meantime.

“(G)etting into a fight with the Legislature on this would be counterproductive,” he said in an email.

In the words of some great philosopher somewhere, “Well, DUHHHHH.”

The Administration, for those just joining us, had claimed the authority to cut current-year spending by up to one percent without legislative approval. And, as reported in this space (and, regrettably, nowhere else), the outlined cuts were very heavy on Human Services. Which probably would have caused even more conflict with the Legislature, as it has done on previous occasions when the Administration sought to balance the budget on the backs of the working poor.

Lawmakers weren’t convinced by the Administration’s legal rationale for unilateral action, even though Attorney General Bill Sorrell rubber-stamped it. Legislative Council had a different view:

In a draft memo drafted Nov. 24, Legislative Council attorney Rebecca Wasserman said the rescissions already approved by the Joint Fiscal Committee in August preclude the administration from making unilateral cuts now.

I hate to say it, but I’ll take Wasserman’s word over Sorrell’s. Finance Commissioner Jim Reardon somehow managed to make a big concession sound like a veiled threat:

“We do believe we have the authority based on the consultation with the AG’s office,” Reardon said. “But for the sake of working with the Legislature, we decided we will propose all of the budget adjustments in January.”

“For the sake of working with the Legislature,” meaning, “We let ’em have this one, so they’d better play ball come January.”

Perhaps I read too much into this. And perhaps, in a more cooperative atmosphere, the massive Human Services cuts will be mitigated. We can but hope.