Budget and Spending

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Scott proposes level budget, seeks education mandates from Montpelier

Gov. Phil Scott delivers his first budget address to lawmakers on Tuesday, Jan. 24. Scott proposed sweeping changes to the state's education system that would impose mandates on local school districts. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard.)

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:15 p.m.

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott has proposed a massive makeover of the state’s education system that focuses on students from birth through college and asks lawmakers to impose new conditions on local school districts to help achieve his vision. Scott, who was sworn in as governor earlier this month, delivered his first budget address to the Democratic-led Legislature Tuesday, laying out bold, controversial proposals that face long odds with lawmakers. The new governor is asking lawmakers to force teachers to pay at least 20 percent of their health care insurance premiums to bring them up to the level paid for by state employees. That will save the state $15 million. But facing down the Vermont National Education Association — the state’s largest labor union — is not likely something many Democrats, or even some Republicans, are likely relishing. Continue Reading →

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Watch: Capital Beat with House leaders

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Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami speaks with House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski and House Minority Leader Don Turner. Topics include a revenue downgrade and the merits of raising the minimum wage. You can watch Capital Beat on Vermont PBS Plus on Monday nights at 7:30 p.m.

 
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Scott administration prepares for revenue downgrade

MONTPELIER — General fund revenues are lagging halfway through the state fiscal year and the administration of new Republican Gov. Phil Scott is preparing for state economists to project a revenue downgrade later this month for the second half of the fiscal year. New Secretary of Administration Susanne Young released revenue figures for December on Wednesday, which showed the general fund coming in $2.78 million below its monthly target set. Total general fund revenues last month were $127.33 million. The state Emergency Board, compromised of the governor and the chairs of the four money committees in Legislature, last set revenue targets in July 2016. State economists will present a new revenue forecast to the Emergency Board later this month. Continue Reading →

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Scott promises a new era of state government

Surrounded by members of the Senate, Gov. Phil Scott acknowledges an ovation after delivering his Inaugural Address at the State House in Montpelier on Thursday. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — Phillip B. Scott, Vermont’s 82nd governor, was sworn into office Thursday afternoon before promising in his inaugural address to bring a “centrist governing philosophy” to the office while focusing on making the state more affordable for its residents. Scott, 58, succeeded Peter Shumlin, the now former Democratic governor, who set the state on a course of bold action. Scott, in his 30-minute address, described a more subdued approach to governing. He said his administration would focus on four core issues — continuing the fight against opiate addiction, revitalizing the state’s approach to economic development, transforming the education system and building a sustainable state budget. But while he described the initial themes of his governorship, he offered few policy prescriptions to achieve them, promising more in the weeks to come. Continue Reading →

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Scott not sold on exchange report, will outline plan in budget address

Gov. Phil Scott (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

MONTPELIER — Gov.-elect Phil Scott says a recent report recommending that the state stick with Vermont Health Connect has not necessarily changed his belief that the state should abandon the exchange as he prepares to outline his path forward later this month. Scott, a Republican who will be sworn in as Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin’s successor on Thursday, promised during his campaign against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter that he would seek to join the federal exchange or partner with other states, while shuddering Vermont Health Connect. The Strategic Solutions Group, an independent party hired by the Legislature to determine whether the state should stick with or abandon the exchange, released its report just before Christmas. The report noted the state’s exchange has “significant deficiencies” and more work is needed if it is to be sustainable. But it also asserted that sticking with Vermont Health Connect is preferable to the solutions Scott proposed during the campaign. Continue Reading →

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Podcast: Scott discusses deliberative transition process

Republican Gov.-elect Phil Scott speaks to reporters the day after winning Vermont's gubernatorial race. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)
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Listen to the podcast below:

MONTPELIER — With just over a month to go before he takes office, Gov.-elect Phil Scott has yet to name any top cabinet positions, but promises his deliberative selection process will result in a full cabinet by early January. Since winning the governor’s office on Nov. 8, Scott, a Republican, has appointed four people to serve on his staff. But top-level cabinet positions remain unfilled. Six years ago, outgoing Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin named several such appointees within a couple of weeks of his election. Continue Reading →

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LIHEAP benefits to increase this winter

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MONTPELIER — State officials said Thursday that a home heating assistance program will increase its benefit level for most beneficiaries during the upcoming winter season. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, funded by both state and federal dollars, will see its average benefit rise from $699 last winter to $865 this winter, according to Gov. Peter Shumlin, Agency of Human Services Secretary Hal Cohen and Department for Children and Families Commissioner Ken Schatz. The average benefit is expected to cover about 54 percent of heating costs for households. The state officials said they anticipate receiving $18.9 million in federal funding this year for the LIHEAP program. That will be added to about $3.8 million in leftover money from last year plus the state contribution approved in the 2017 fiscal year budget. Continue Reading →

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House GOP seeks shorter session, narrow focus on fiscal issues

Rep. Linda Myers, R-Essex Jct., leaves the podium after speaking at a House GOP news conference highlighting the caucus' electoral and legislative goals. (Times Argus/Stefan  Hard)

MONTPELIER — Vermont House Republicans say they are gunning for a substantial pick up of seats and will be pursuing a two-year state budget process and a complete focus on fiscal issues rather than new policies. More than two dozen House Republicans and Republican candidates gathered for a State House news conference Tuesday to highlight their goals for the upcoming general election and legislative biennium. House Minority Leader Don Turner, of Milton, said he hopes to lead the House in a new direction after the election. “It’s time for a new direction and a new way of thinking in Vermont. I want to lead that change in the House and I want to be looking for support from all the Republican colleagues, across party lines — independents and Democrats — because I believe that we cannot sustain this pace of heavy spending and recklessly taxing Vermonters to no end,” Turner told reporters. Continue Reading →

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Scott rolls back proposed capital gains tax cut

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MONTPELIER — Republican gubernatorial nominee Phil Scott is scaling back a proposal to cut taxes on capitals gains in the economic plan he rolled out two weeks ago after it was based on incorrect information. Scott, the incumbent lieutenant governor, distributed a glossy pamphlet at a news conference in Colchester on Sept. 15 that included a number of proposals he intends to enact as governor. Included in the pamphlet was a plan to restore a 40 percent exclusion on capital gains earnings that was reduced in 2009. But Scott spokesman Ethan Latour said the campaign made a mistake when crafting the proposal and based it on wrong information. Continue Reading →

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