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Monday, July 14, 2003
A Surplus? Surely You Jest?

Nope, and stop calling me Shirley. In sharp contrast to the budget mess under third-term Republican governor George Pataki in New York, Vermont actually has a budget surplus this year, thanks in large part to former Governor Howard Dean.

In a fiscal year that saw states across the nation swimming in seas of red ink, Vermont ended with a $10.4 million General Fund surplus.
“We are very, very different than other states,” said Stephen Klein, chief fiscal officer for the Legislature. “We have lived within our means.”
The Douglas administration on Friday released the final figures for the fiscal year that ended June 30. They show taxes for the state’s main operating fund generated $864.87 million, which is $10.43 million more than analysts had forecast in January.
That surplus will be placed into the state’s rainy day fund, which is used to avoid future deficits. This comes at a time when many states are emptying their rainy day funds, raising taxes and still face deficits of millions and — in some cases — billions of dollars.
Vermont Administration Secretary Michael Smith said credit for the budget balancing should be shared by the Legislature, former Gov. Howard Dean and Gov. James Douglas.
“We responded early to the deficit, starting with the previous administration,” Smith said. “We started early to put the brakes on spending.”
Klein agreed that lawmakers and both the Dean and Douglas administrations deserve the credit for the state’s strong fiscal health, but added, “I think Dean gets a large amount of credit.”
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