Last week we noted that while health care reform and the establishment of a health benefit exchange were likely to be one of the "hot topics" in Montpelier during this session, it seemed that some of the funding information - as in, how were some of the far-reaching changes under discussion actually going to be paid for - weren't going to be revealed until later in the session. Now it seems later is coming sooner than we thought, as in the governor's budget address this week, scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 24, after The Journal goes to press. Apparently the governor is expected to give lawmakers information on how the Green Mountain Care and single-payer health plan will be paid for.

If that's the case, we'll be all ears. This is an important subject that affects virtually all Vermonters. Fixing the inordinate amount of money we spend on health care and health insurance, while preserving a high level of quality and access to health care, is one of the most critical challenges of our times.

On the other hand, as we are finding out with regard to an interesting plan proposed by the governor in his Inaugural Address two weeks ago on Pre-Kindergarten education, to be paid for through a transfer on money from the state's earned income tax credit, and another initiative to further energy efficiency through enhanced home insulation - to be paid for in part, at least, by a proposed tax on home heating oil or propane - there is no free lunch. With a finite amount of revenue to go around, something will give somewhere, and hard choices will have to be made.

For example, good luck selling the one about the fuel tax. The big picture concept makes sense, but slapping a tax surcharge on top of an oil bill sounds like a good way for politicians to become ex-politicians. There must be another way to get from here to there.