Budget

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State officials not banking on windfall from Keurig sale

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MONTPELIER — The pending sale of Keurig Green Mountain is set to make a number of shareholders wealthy, but it also could deliver a significant windfall to the state’s coffers through the collection of capital gains taxes. The acquisition of Keurig, the Waterbury-based coffee giant, by JAB Holding Co. was announced in December, but is expected to close some time in the first quarter of 2016. The $13.9 billion transaction is an all cash deal and will pay shareholders $92 per share. Generally speaking, anyone earning income through a capital gain can exempt the first $5,000 in earnings, according to Tax Commissioner Mary Peterson. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin won’t rule out new revenue for Medicaid

Gov. Peter Shumlin discusses the state's Medicaid program in an interview Monday, Jan. 11, 2016. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Outgoing Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin is not ruling out the possibility of raising new revenue to pay for the state’s Medicaid program when he delivers his annual budget address on Thursday. Shumlin, in an interview with the Rutland Herald and the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus Monday, promised to deliver a balanced budget for the 2017 fiscal year on Thursday. That means he must close a projected gap of $58.5 million that is largely driven by the Medicaid program. The Medicaid deficit in the upcoming fiscal year is projected to be about $53 million. That’s because the state expanded the program under the federal Affordable Care Act. Continue Reading →

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WATCH: Capitol Beat — Week 1 at the State House

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Vermont Press Burea chief Neal Goswami sits down with Senate Majority Leader Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, to discuss the suspension of Franklin County Republican Sen. Norm McAllister. House Minority Leader Don Turner, R-Milton, also joins the program to discuss Gov. Peter Shumlin’s State of the State address. Continue Reading →

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Health care costs drive budget adjustment

Andy Pallito

MONTPELIER — Health care costs are are driving a proposed budget adjustment from the Governor’s Office to the tune of $70 million. The House Appropriations Committee spent Monday reviewing a proposal that would add an additional $88.9 million to the FY 2016 budget, with the lion’s share of the increase due to the state’s expansion of health care. Much of that will be covered by federal funding. “Of the 88.9 million, $70 million is for DVHA (Department of Vermont Health Access) or Medicaid,” said Andy Pallito, commissioner of the Department of Finance and Management. Since 2012, the state has made a concerted effort to provide health care for all Vermont residents. Continue Reading →

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Rebuilt Waterbury office complex officially opened

Gov. Peter Shumlin and other state and federal officials gather for the official reopening of the newly renovated Waterbury State Office Complex, heavily damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2013. The roughly $130-million project will allow approximately 900 state employees to return, including the first batch later this month. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

WATERBURY — Gov. Peter Shumlin and other officials formally opened the rebuilt Waterbury State Office Complex that was destroyed more than four years ago by the floodwaters of Tropical Storm Irene. It was late August 2011 when the Winooski River spilled over its banks and devastated the town of Waterbury, including the state office complex. Work began in August 2013 to revamp the complex. On Monday, Shumlin and Congressman Peter Welch joined state and local officials to cut the ribbon on the new building. “All I can say is, we’ve come a long way, baby,” Shumlin said. Continue Reading →

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Story + Video: Shumlin says $8.4 million needed to boost child protection

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MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin on Thursday laid out an $8.4 million plan to add 35 workers at the Department for Children and Families as well as an additional superior court judge and increased resources for the Defender General and State’s Attorneys Offices because of a growing demand for child protection services. Shumlin, speaking at a State House news conference, said the state’s child welfare system has struggled to keep pace with an influx of cases related to substance abuse, and opiate addiction in particular. The number of children in state custody has ballooned from 982 in September 2013 to 1,373 as of this past September. The increase, according to Shumlin, is largely driven by parents addicted to opiates. A DCF survey of cases found that 80 percent of cases involving children under the age of three were the result of opiate abuse. Continue Reading →

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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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