- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Gov. Phil Scott signed a balanced 2018 state budget Wednesday that he said for the first time in recent memory contained no new taxes or fees while increasing spending for a number of critical programs. He cautioned that decisions made in Washington could affect Vermont.

The $5.8 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins Saturday increases spending on economic development, affordable housing, childcare and education while addressing the opioid addiction problem.

The Republican governor said he was hopeful state revenues will meet expectations and increased economic growth will boost state revenues going forward.

“The big question mark, really, is what happens in Washington and that could have a very detrimental effect on us and so we’ll have to react to that accordingly,” Scott said. “We’re doing whatever we can to make sure that doesn’t happen. But the reality is we rely so heavily on federal funds in our budget that even a small change could have a drastic effect on us.”

He was referring to spending uncertainty by Congress.

After Scott took office in January, he said the three major goals of his administration would be to expand the economy, make the state more affordable and protect the state’s most vulnerable people. He kept his promise to not raise taxes or fees, but the budget invests in early education, the Vermont State Colleges and housing.

The $3 million in new money for the colleges, other funding and savings will be used to ensure a balanced budget, said Tricia Coates, the director of government and external affairs at the Vermont State Colleges.

“We will continue our push forward with strategies to boost enrollment and completion rates, serve more working age Vermonters, all the while prioritizing student success and ensuring budget sustainability,” she said.

A $35 million bond will be used to provide about 100 much-needed housing units across the state, said Gus Seelig, the executive director of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.

“The need for this bond has been well documented,” Seelig said.

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