Budget

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Property tax increase projections lowest in three years, but are subject to change

Mary Peterson discusses projected tax rates while Gov. Peter Shumlin looks on.

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin Administration is projecting property taxes will increase by 1 percent in the coming year, with the governor pledging action to fine tune school district spending thresholds within the first month of the legislative session. The Agency of education, the Department of Taxes and the Joint Fiscal Office are projecting an average statewide tax increase of 1.12 percent, the lowest increase in three years, although that figure is a best-guess that will be subject to revision in the coming months. “What we’re anticipating from what were seeing in these numbers is that that the average tax bill be going up by a little more than 1 percent, and education spending is going up by 2.5 percent,” said Mary Peterson, commissioner of the Department of Taxes. On the residential side, the average homestead tax rate is projected to increase by 1 cent, to $1.535 for every $100 of assessed property; however, tax increases will vary from municipality to municipality depending upon how much they spend on education. The non-residential tax rate is projected to increase by 0.3 cents, to $1.538 for every $100 of assessed property. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Lara’s Legacy

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lancing through my morning paper the other day, an entry in the “police log” caught my eye, and not in a good way. It read “A woman threatened to ‘go all Jody Herring’ on a Department for Children and Families caseworker.” It was a harsh reminder of how important VSEA’s current campaign to enhance on-the-job safety for DCF workers is. But this group of workers is not alone. VSEA members working in the Employment Services Division, Office of Child Support, Probation and Parole, Corrections and other agencies and departments throughout state government have also told their union that they would like improved on-the-job safety. VSEA members recognize that our request for increased worker safety protections will cost money, but another Lara Sobel tragedy is something no one wants, and, judging by the newspaper entry I told you about (and other scary incidents workers have been told me about), time is particularly of the essence here. Continue Reading →

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Concern raised with off session legislative work

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann

MONTPELIER — Vermont has always had a part-time Legislature comprised of ordinary, civic-minded Vermonters, but one representative says that characteristic is threatened by the growing level of engagement outside of the regular legislative sessions. Stowe Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, a Republican, took to social media Friday to lament the extensive work performed by some legislative committees since the official session ended in mid-May. “Is anybody else as frustrated as I with the amount of legislative activity that has happened since our May 16th adjournment? Report, after report, after report has legislative committees meeting and conducting legislative work just about full-time,” Scheuermann wrote. “While there have always been some summer study committees during the off session, I have never seen the amount of legislative work being conducted as I am seeing this year.”

Is anybody else as frustrated as I with the amount of legislative activity that has happened since our May 16th… Continue Reading →

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State revenue growth to continue, but remains volatile

Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin Administration says revenue forecasts will likely remain unchanged going into the next year, while acknowledging revenue streams have grown more volatile. Administration Secretary Justin Johnson hosted an Internet forum Monday afternoon to inform the public on the pressures lawmakers will face as they craft the 2017 budget, and took testimony from the public on the effects budget cuts might have to social services. In a good news-bad news sort of statement, Johnson discussed the trend of revenues coming into state coffers. “Revenue is growing. It has been growing consistently, year over year, since the global financial crisis in 2008,” Johnson said. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Reversing the trend of rising incarceration rates

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or most of the last two decades, Vermont’s prison inmate population has been rising. Between 1997 and 2008, it grew by 86 percent. Projections made in 2007 said that Vermont’s inmate population would grow to 2,619 by November 2015. After years of work to reform Vermont’s criminal justice system that trend has been reversed, and today Vermont has 1,734 inmates, 885 less than projected. When I first ran for Governor I made reforming the criminal justice system a priority because it is the right thing to do. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin administration won’t seek more funds in budget adjustment

Andrew Pallito (courtesy photo)

MONTPELIER — Shumlin administration officials say they are hoping to avoid asking lawmakers for additional funds for the 2016 fiscal year in the annual budget adjustment and will instead ask for the authority to shuffle spending within state government. Finance Commissioner Andrew Pallito, who took over the post on Nov. 1, will update the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee Friday on the administration’s budget adjustment progress and its plan to address a $35 to $40 million gap in the Medicaid program. Pallito said Thursday the administration will seek “spending authority manipulation across state government” to help close the Medicaid gap and address additional budget pressures in state government. “We’re going to zero it,” Pallito said. Continue Reading →

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Medicaid, budget woes on the horizon in Montpelier

Gov. Peter Shumlin in his ceremonial State House office earlier this year.

MONTPELIER — Lawmakers are facing another daunting budget gap as high as $90 million in the 2017 fiscal year that is driven largely by Medicaid costs after tackling a $113 million problem this year, according to the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office. There are still two and a half months before the next legislative session commences, but the fiscal challenges are already on the radar of lawmakers and the Shumlin administration. The Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office outlined those challenges for lawmakers last week. According to JFO, the state must find an additional $38 million for its Medicaid program for the current fiscal year. Another $58 million hole is projected for the 2017 fiscal year. Continue Reading →

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Podcast: Capitol Beat with Speaker Shap Smith 10-16-15

House Speaker Shap Smith on the Capitol Beat podcast.
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Democratic House Speaker Shap, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor, sits down with Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami to discuss budget challenges with Medicaid and the general fund.  

 

 

 

 

 

  Continue Reading →

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State revenues exceed September targets

Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson

MONTPELIER — The state’s general, transportation and education funds exceeded revenue targets in September, according to the Shumlin administration. Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson said general fund revenues totaled $146 million for the month, more than $7 million, or 5.3 percent, above its target. He said the fund performed well largely due to higher income and corporate tax receipts. The fund’s performance in September pushed the cumulative year-to-date results about $5 million over projections one quarter through the fiscal year. “In addition to providing a small cushion, the strong performance by the G-Fund in September also helped us rebuild the revenue shortfall from August. Continue Reading →

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Jim Reardon to retire from state government

Jim Reardon (VPR photo)

MONTPELIER — Commissioner of Finance Jim Reardon, who has crafted state budgets for Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin and former Republican Gov. James Douglas, is retiring after nearly 30 years of state service. Reardon’s retirement was part of several staff changes the governor announced Tuesday. Reardon has served as finance commissioner since February 2005. Before that he served as deputy finance commissioner and financial operations ,anager for the Agency of Human Services. Current Department of Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito has been tapped to replace Reardon. Continue Reading →

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