1.24.2020 – The Budget Speech, Budget Adjustment, and Boris the Bat

The governor presented his budget speech on Tuesday. There were some provisions that everyone would like and support, but the devil’s in the details and we won’t find out how he plans to fund these things until the actual numbers are released in a week or two. The governor claims to be providing these services with no additional taxes so there is only one way to make them happen and that’s by cutting other areas. As the details are released, the policy committees will be reviewing the proposals and weighing in with the House Appropriations Committee

In Vermont, we always maintain a balanced budget. When we build our budget and pass it at the end of the Session, it’s a very thoughtful, calculated process. Just like our own household budgets, however, there can be unexpected expenses despite what each Agency thought it would need in order to do its work and provide services to Vermonters. Adjustments get made so we can live within our means. Sometimes, believe it or not, funds aren’t used and are available for other purposes. In order to facilitate and maintain our balanced budget, we have a “true up” in January that’s called our Budget Adjustment Act (BAA). The BAA passed this week and the Appropriations Committee will now focus on constructing the FY2021 budget. For the details of this year’s BAA please check out the following: https://ljfo.vermont.gov/assets/Uploads/4fbda380ba/FY_2020_BAA_House_Passed_Highlights.pdf.

When I returned to Montpelier this year, my landlady, who is really a friend, had left a little earlier than usual for her winter home so the house had been at 50 degrees for a while. When I arrived, I turned up the heat and started a fire in the living room wood stove. The house warmed up, I fixed my supper, and I got to bed so I would be fresh for the first day of the 2020 Legislative Session.

Two or three hours later, I became aware of a fluttering near my cheek. As I slowly awoke from a deep sleep, I heard scratching sounds, not unusual in my Windham home, but not common in Montpelier. I then heard more fluttering and opened my eyes to see in the dimness a bat flying around my bedroom.

My mind immediately went into a reluctant overdrive. I thought of the program Jane Lindholm did on VPR’s Vermont Edition about bats. She discovered a bat in her young son’s room and because they couldn’t be sure that he hadn’t been bitten, he underwent rabies shots. She’d had a bat expert on the program – what was his name and what had he said? One should always wear leather gloves when handling bats. I ran and got my gloves but then couldn’t find the bat.

I decided to deal with the bat in the morning, left the light on in my bedroom, and dragged my pillows and comforter into the living room where I slept on the couch until 5:30 am. I searched for the bat again to no avail and headed to the State House where I encountered Jane Lindholm who was there for the first day of the Session. I exclaimed that I had a bat in my bedroom and what was the name of the bat guy on her program? Barry, Barry was the bat guy was her reply, but she couldn’t remember his last name. Google him, she said, so I did and one of my committee members also happened to have his contact information.

So, I called Barry whose last name is Genzlinger and who lives in Milton, Vermont. He and his wife, Maureen, run the Vermont Bat Center, which provides education and bat rescue and rehabilitation. I explained my situation – I really like bats and wanted to help if I could. Barry gave me instructions as to how to capture the bat, which I named Boris. I was to wear leather gloves and using a soft cloth or dish towel approach the bat very slowly so that it would not perceive me as a predator. If the bat flew, I was to keep my eye on it so I would know where it landed.

I followed his directions and after a bit of an ordeal and a little improvisation, I was able to get Boris into a cardboard box and tape it shut – no air holes were needed. I kept it in a cool 50-degree place for the night so he would hopefully go back to sleep. I then called Barry to let him know he could pick Boris up the next day.

The next morning as I got to the State House carrying Boris in the box, the governor was walking up to the ceremonial office. I said, “Governor, you’ll never guess what’s in this box” and he was surprised to hear it was a bat. I lauded his Agency of Agriculture because I had made arrangements with the State Veterinarian, Dr. Kristin Haas, to allow Barry to pick Boris up from her since parking is easier behind the Agency. Barry had, in fact, made the same trip the day before to pick up another bat at the Agency so this was nothing new to him.

I labeled the box with my contact information and my Montpelier address because this spring or whenever insects are flying again, Barry will return Boris to our neighborhood. Later that day, Barry texted me to say that Boris is a very healthy Big Brown Bat weighing in at 15.5 grams, which is a little more than half an ounce. Boris will spend the rest of the winter in a hibernation chamber. If he had not been in good shape, Barry would have provided medical attention and would have “fattened” him up.

I’m relating this experience because our bat population is in trouble and every bat counts and shouldn’t be feared. Barry and Maureen Genzlinger are providing an amazing service. Their phone is answered 24/7/365 and they drive to pick up bats, though I don’t know how far they’re willing to go. If you need help with a bat situation, I encourage you to call Barry and Maureen at the Vermont Bat Center at 802-891-6667. Their email is VermontBatCenter@gmail.com and website is www.VermontBatCenter.org. The mailing address is PO Box 205, Milton, VT, 05468-0205 and they do accept donations online or by sending a check made out to the Vermont Bat Center.