Shumlin budget address coming at 2 p.m. this afternoon

All eyes will be on Gov. Peter Shumlin this afternoon as he unveils his fiscal year 2014 budget proposal.

The presentation comes a day after economists downgraded revenue projections for the coming year by $20 million, deepening what had already been a $70 million shortfall in the general fund.

While the second-term Democrat has remained tight-lipped in advance of his speech, he’s indicated that the proposal will include additional revenues for an ailing transportation fund.

Shumlin this afternoon will also reveal his plan for the 17,000 Vermonters enrolled in either Catamount or VHAP who face a considerable increase in health care costs beginning in 2014, when they’ll be required to purchase their insurance from the new “health benefits exchange.”

Advocates are bracing for bad news on that front, as Shumlin has said the state cannot afford to hold harmless everyone facing increased out-of-pocket exposure. The administration has projected that it would cost $18 million to hold harmless the 17,000 or so residents facing higher costs. Shumlin has said the state will dedicate some financial resources to offset the impact on those people, but that it can’t pay the full freight.

Also on tap today: the presentation of a financing plan for a single-payer health care system Shumlin says will be in place by 2017. Act 48, the single-payer law passed in 2009, says the Shumlin administration “shall” by Jan. 15 of this year “recommend the amounts and necessary mechanisms to finance (single-payer) and any systems improvements needed to achieve a public-private universal health care system.”

The administration missed the deadline by a week, and anyone looking for “recommendations” for single-payer financing options today will likely be disappointed. The administration says that given the unlikelihood of securing necessary federal waivers until 2017 – something they didn’t know in 2009 – it’s premature to submit recommendations.

Still, Vermonters should get their most detailed look yet at how the state might one day pay for universal care.

Stay tuned to for updates throughout the afternoon.

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