New bill proposes increase in state funding for Vermont colleges

There has been a proposal for an increase in state funding for higher education from officials at UVM and Vermont State Colleges.

UVM and Vermont State Colleges are asking for funds for a three percent boost in funding, said Jeb Spaulding, chancellor of Vermont State Colleges.

The Vermont State Colleges system includes Castleton, Johnson and Lyndon State colleges, the multi-campus Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College in Randolph Center.

The proposal comes from a bill that states that each school year the budget should increase by 1 percent in comparison to the last year’s recommended budget, Spaulding said.

This proposal may not end in success. There has been no proposed increase in the current year budget of $88.5 million for the next fiscal year from Gov. Peter Shumlin, and the budget has remained level since 2008, Spaulding said.

Spaulding said that the governor’s office has told him they would like to help but they don’t know where they would get the money.

During these difficult budget challenges in Vermont, I appreciate the governor’s effort to protect UVM’s budget from cuts,” President Tom Sullivan said in the press release.

Spaulding said he has proposed two new taxes to pay for the increase in budget: applying Vermont’s currently exempt 6 percent sales tax to candy and applying a tax to electronic cigarettes.

Spaulding said that he is not trying to be critical of the governor and understands the difficulties in funding a budget. However, he said that if this increase in funding for higher education is something everyone really wants, it is not that difficult to follow through with a modest increase in budget.

Twenty-nine other states already apply their sales tax to candy and most people think they are paying the sales tax anyway, Spaulding said.

Additionally, e-cigarettes are growing popular in Vermont, Spaulding said but they are not taxed as regular cigarettes are. Either of these proposed taxes would pay for the increase in the budget, Spaulding said.

“We have asked the legislature to increase our budget so that we can hold down tuition increases for students, and, in doing so, we can moderate the cost of attending UVM, thus making UVM even more affordable,” Sullivan said.