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Online sales costing Vermont millions in tax revenue

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MONTPELIER — The state will take in another $8 million or so in annual sales tax revenue now that Amazon has agreed to collect and remit it, but the state will continue to miss out on about $13 million more from online purchases and mail orders, according to the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office. Vermont’s sale tax must be collected from retailers who have a presence, or what is known as nexus, in the state. The state has tried without success in recent years to collect the sales tax for online purchases from retailers who do not have a presence in Vermont. Amazon, the nation’s largest online retailer, began voluntarily collecting Vermont’s 6 percent sales tax this month. But plenty of other online retailers continue to sell goods to Vermonters without collecting the tax. Continue Reading →

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Amazon to collect state sales tax

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Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. to include comments from the governor’s office. MONTPELIER — Online retail giant Amazon has agreed to begin collecting and remitting the state’s sales tax, providing a boost in revenue as the state faces another gap between revenues and spending in the 2018 fiscal year budget. News of Amazon’s decision to collect and remit Vermont’s 6 percent sales tax beginning Feb. 1 emerged on Friday. It is expected to provide a significant boost to state revenue. Continue Reading →

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Scott proposes changes to the executive branch

Gov. Phil Scott, right, and Agency of Commerce and Community Development Secretary Michael Schirling discuss proposed changes to the executive branch. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott Scott is looking to consolidate some areas of state government in a bid to create operational efficiencies and some potential cost savings, but critics say it could weaken enforcement in a key area of government. Scott, who took office earlier this month, signed three executive orders Sunday and briefed reporters at the State House Tuesday on how they will reorganize the executive branch. One will combine the Department of Liquor and the Lottery Commission into the Department of Liquor and Lottery. Another will reconfigure the state’s Department of Information and Innovation into a new Agency of Digital Services. The third order combines the Department of Labor and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development into a single Agency of Economic Opportunity. Continue Reading →

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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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Minter outlines tax policy

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MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial nominee Sue Minter says she will seek tax fairness as governor and look to lower the burden on low- and middle-income Vermonters by closing loopholes enjoyed by the wealthy and corporations. According to Minter, the tax policies she will propose as governor may incorporate some elements of the Blue Ribbon Tax Structure Commission report released in 2011. The report, which was shelved by policymakers in Montpelier, recommended expanding the sales tax to “all consumer-purchased services with limited exceptions for certain health and education services and business to business service transactions.”

Minter expressed an interest in dusting off the commission’s report during a WDEV radio debate on Sept. 14, saying she would look at expanding the base of the sales tax to include services. Her Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and the Vermont Republican Party pounced, announcing to Vermonters in a coordinated effort that Minter wants to tax hair cuts, among other services that Vermonters pay for. Continue Reading →

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Scott releases economic plan, seeks tax cuts and credits

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the Republican nominee for governor, discusses his economic plan at Firetech Sprinkler in Colchester. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

COLCHESTER — Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the Republican nominee for governor, released an economic plan Thursday that he says will focus on major fiscal issues and lead to a more vibrant economy. Scott, who co-owns Dubois Construction with a cousin, released the plan at a news conference at Firetech Sprinkler, saying it will lead to job creation and help lift wages for Vermonters. He chose to hold the press conference Thursday morning rather than attend a debate hosted by WDEV radio at the Tunbridge World’s Fair with his Democratic opponent, Sue Minter. “As a small business owner myself, I put my faith in the skills, work ethic and ingenuity of working Vermonters every single day. That’s why Vermonters can count on me to lead a state government that leverages our talented work force and our commitment to hard work and innovation,” he said. Continue Reading →

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Economists: state revenues to grow less than expected

Economists Tom Kavet, right, and Jeff Carr, left, present a new revenue forecast to the Emergency Board on Thursday, July 21. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Economists for the Shumlin administration and Legislature issued a revised state revenue forecast for the current fiscal year Thursday that projects a total of $28 million less in revenue, but growth over the 2016 fiscal revenues. Tom Kavet and Jeff Carr, consulting economists for the administration and lawmakers, issued their revised revenue forecast Thursday to the state’s Emergency Board, which includes the governor and the four chairs of the Legislature’s money committees. Revenue for the state’s general fund was lowered by $21 million, while revenues for the transportation and education funds were lowered by $3.5 million and $3.4 million, respectively. Still, revenues are expected to grow above the 2016 fiscal year, which closed on June 30, both Kavet and Carr said. “The upturn continues, that’s the good news,” Carr told the Emergency Board. Continue Reading →

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