Our opinion: We deserve a budget hearing, too


Gov. Phil Scott's administration is holding community-based budget hearings on Monday evening at locations throughout the state. But if you live in Bennington County and you want to make a point or ask a question about the state's financial plan for the year ahead, you'll need to get in your car and drive: The closest locations for area residents are in Rutland and Springfield.

This just won't do.

We realize that we're cut off from much of the state's population centers, thanks to the vagaries of geography and poor decisions made by transportation planners decades ago. But we ought not be punished for our isolation.

It is true that this is merely the governor's proposed state budget, that the finished product might bear little resemblance to this proposal, and that it's still early in the process. But there's still a principle to uphold here, and it's an important one.

The state budget is not just a parade of numbers. It's a statement of priorities and policy for the coming year, one that has direct impact on every single resident and taxpayer of the Green Mountain State, from Pownal to Newport and everywhere between. If you're a child attending school, a young adult taking classes at a CCV campus, a parent needing affordable quality child care, or a senior citizen concerned about cleaning up Lake Champlain, this document matters a great deal.

What's more, that budget is a road map of how our taxes will be spent. If the citizens of Johnson, Springfield, Rutland, St. Albans, St. Johnsbury and Winooski get to have their say about where the state and their tax dollars are headed, why not us?

We naturally do feel isolated in Southern Vermont, but we are willing to give Gov. Scott some leeway when it comes to fair treatment of our region; he has, in his first year in office, been fairly attentive to our part of the state. If nothing else, Scott has made a point of visiting our region on multiple occasions, which is something not every statewide elected official can say about their travel schedule.

Hopefully, this is the exception that proves the rule. And there's time to turn this one around.

Here's our free, unsolicited advice: We hope that sometime soon, a member of the Scott administration will come to Bennington County with a laptop and a recorder, a copy of the governor's proposed spending plan (which you can find at http://finance.vermont.gov/budget/budget-recommendations/operating-budget/fy2019) and the willingness to sit and listen.


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