There is strong support from the leadership in both the House and the Senate to bring the VHCB appropriation for FY2011 to $11.1 million. This is significantly less than the total of $13.1 million that VHCB is receiving in FY 2010. The idea is to approve the Governorâ€™s recommended $6.1 million from property transfer tax (PTT) revenues in the Appropriations Bill and $5 million in the Capital Bill. The PTT amount appears to have solid support in the House Appropriations Committee and there is growing interest in the House Institutions Committee to include VHCB in the Capital Bill.
The major task is to fit the requested $5 million within the $72 million cap for capital budget expenditures, which are supported by the issuance of 20-year general revenue bonds. The presumptive cap is the working figure based upon the recommendation (non-binding but very influential) of the Capital Debt Affordability Advisory Committee, chaired by the State Treasurer, Jeb Spaulding.
VHCB is one of the significant contenders to be funded within the $72 million cap. The potential options are to increase the cap; to fund portions of other demands in other ways, e.g., pay interest on school construction grants instead of the entire amount of the grant until the stateâ€™s revenues improve; and to fund certain capital requests for a term of less than 20 years, e.g., information technology improvements.
The talking points in support of the request for $5 million in the capital bill are:
- VHCB-supported housing and conservation investments produce a short-term economic stimulus while securing long term capital assets for the Vermont economy that will exist long after the bonds are paid off.
- Affordable housing construction projects produce jobs, jobs and jobs. Affordable housing developments are a proven way to reduce taxpayer funded human service assistance costs.
- Conservation projects invest in the cornerstones of our working lands economy: farming, forestry, and public access to recreation. These investments produce jobs while protecting our Vermont brand.
- During the economic downturn in the 1990s, 80 percent of the state investment into VHCB economic development projects was from the Capital Bill. There is solid precedent for Capital Bill investment into VHCB.
- Significant federal funds will be lost for Vermont without an adequate VHCB investment by the state.
We need your help in delivering this message. It is imperative that conservation supporters engage in a broad grassroots effort to let lawmakers know that VHCB has wide and deep support. This means phone calls, letters to the editor, opinion pieces and e-mails to your legislators.