The week ahead in politics

Gov. Peter Shumlin will dominate headlines this week with his budget address at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The governor is expected to roll out a spending agenda that will address the $70 million budget gap, pay for new opiate treatment programs and partially resolve the ongoing erosion of the teachers' retirement fund.

The furor over the speech Shumlin gave last Wednesday - his State of the State address - hasn't died down yet. The governor's focus on the "opiate epidemic" in Vermont stirred a national debate about the pervasiveness of the problem. If idyllic Vermont has a heroin problem, then what state doesn't? Stories about Shumlin's speech appeared in the New York Times, Al-Jazeera, and the Daily Beast. The governor was interviewed on the PBS "Newshour," and he'll be on Tom Ashbrook's hourlong program "On Point" at 10 a.m. on Monday.

On Thursday the Emergency Board will hear from economists Tom Kavet (who reports to the Legislature) and Jeffrey Carr (who works for the governor's office). The two economists will give a consensus forecast of the state's revenues for 2014, based on local and global economic trends.

Two back-to-back, daylong education summits are being held today and tomorrow.

The first, at the Dudley H. Davis Center, University of Vermont, kicks off with a 9:30 a.m. keynote address by Tony Wagner, the author of "Innovators: The Making of Young People who will Change the World." Panels and experts will follow with talks on innovative education and workforce training trends. Professors will present the latest research from UVM faculty on universal pre-K programs, teaching with technology, community-based change and developing better funding formulas.

The second summit, held at the Roy Event Center, St. Michael's College, is a symposium on education finance. Lawrence Picus, a consultant for the Legislature, is leading a daylong discussion on the efficacy of Vermont's unique funding formula, which features a statewide property tax that equalizes the amount raised by towns.

"A hoped for outcome of the conference is the identification of alternative mechanisms that could maintain and encourage desired education outcomes and local control with a stronger link between local spending decisions and a sustainable rate of statewide education revenue growth," Picus wrote in a recent report.

In the Legislature this week, the Senate will take up campaign finance legislation on Tuesday. The House overwhelmingly passed the conference committee's final version of the bill last Thursday.

House Appropriations is expected to pass a budget adjustment bill out of committee on Friday. House Ways and Means will take up the fee bill. Senate Finance is weighing options for funding a single payer health care system.


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