Officials explain dairy-aid funding

US - The Douglas administration and legislative leaders agreed to squeeze $3.2 million in one-time aid for Vermont's struggling dairy farmers from seven accounts -- including a projected surplus in the low-income heating assistance program and a year's worth of funding for a new computer-based case management system for the judiciary.
calendar icon 9 February 2007
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The money is less than the $3.7 million the House Agriculture Committee had recommended last week, but Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Susan Bartlett, D-Lamoille, said Wednesday, "It's all we could find."

The House committee had proposed making slightly larger, one-time payments to dairy farmers in March by increasing the tax on commercial property transfers for 12 months. Gov. Jim Douglas opposed the tax increase, but later he and legislative leaders agreed to work together to find money within existing revenues.

"This is an example of how good things happen in this building," said Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin, D-Windham. "It is a success story."

"It's the right way to go," said House Republican Leader Steve Adams of Hartland. "It was never right to raise a tax for a one-time expenditure."

Lawmakers see the $3 million for dairy farmers as an extension of an $8.6 million emergency-assistance program set up last summer. Farmers continue to struggle to pay bills after heavy rains destroyed feed crops, milk prices dropped and fuel prices increased. The $3 million aid plan is timed to put checks in farmers' mailboxes when they are making decisions about whether to buy seed and fertilizer to stay in farming, or give up.

Source: Burlington Free Press

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