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Economists predict continued, moderate growth in Vermont

Economists Jeffrey Carr, left, and Thomas Kavet brief the Emergency Board.

MONTPELIER — Economists for the Shumlin administration and the Legislature provided an updated economic forecast Monday that predicts continued moderate growth for the state’s economy into the foreseeable future. Thomas Kavet and Jeffrey Carr, economists for the Legislature and administration, respectively, presented a consensus economic forecast to the Emergency Board Monday that predicts a 3 percent increase in general fund revenues over the last forecast in January for the 2016 fiscal year. That means the state is expected to collected about $40 million more in revenue than expected in January. The 2016 expected revenues are aided by about $30 million in news taxes and fees signed into law following the recent legislative session. The new forecast also predicts about $30 million more in general fund revenues in the 2017 fiscal year, which represents about 2 percent growth. Continue Reading →

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Reach Up cuts challenged in federal court

Department for Children and Families Commissioner Ken Schatz. (VPR photo)

MONTPELIER — Vermont Legal Aid has filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against the state hoping to block a new statute that calls for a reduction in Reach Up benefits for some Vermonters. Legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Peter Shumlin reduces the temporary cash assistance by $125 per month for as many as 860 households in Vermont. That’s because of a provision in the approved 2016 fiscal year budget that counts $125 per month of federal Supplemental Security Income assistance, or SSI, against a family’s income when determining benefits under the state’s Reach Up program. Under current law, an individual’s SSI disability benefits are not counted when determining a family’s Reach Up assistance. The change is part of a $1.6 million cut to the 2016 state budget. Continue Reading →

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Welch, Minter seek long-term transportation funds

EAST MONTPELIER — U.S. Rep. Peter Welch and Vermont Agency of Transportation Secretary Sue Minter are urging Congress to pass a long-term transportation spending plan before federal spending authorization expires on July 31, which would put dozens of Vermont projects at risk. Welch and Minter held a news conference Tuesday at a Route 14 bridge in East Montpelier that intersects with Route 2. The bridge has been deemed structurally deficient and has visible signs of degradation, including at least one hole in the deck offering a view of the water below. “We in Vermont have bridges that are crumbling,” Welch said. “This bridge next to us is falling apart, and I hate to say that because I don’t want to scare the driving public, but the driving public knows how bad our roads and bridges are.”

In the recent past Congress has passed short-term spending resolutions to keep transportation and infrastructure projects around the country funded. Continue Reading →

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Sanders surging, shaping the debate

DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. Bernie Sanders took the stage at a Drake University auditorium on a recent Friday to wild applause and several standing ovations before he was even introduced. It was the first of several events he held on a weekend swing through Iowa in his quixotic quest for the presidency. “Whoa, we’ve got a lot of people here tonight!” the 73-year-old told the adoring crowd. “Sometimes our campaign has been referred to as a fringe campaign. Well, if this is fringe I would hate to see mainstream.”

Sanders, Vermont’s junior senator and a self-described democratic socialist, launched his bid for president on the shore of Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vt., in late May in front of thousands of supporters. Continue Reading →

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Tax deal struck, adjournment looming

MONTPELIER — After a week of veiled veto threats and behind-closed-doors meetings, Gov. Peter Shumlin emerged from his ceremonial office Saturday afternoon with legislative leaders to announced a tax deal — the linchpin paving the way for adjournment. “I’m really pleased to announce that we’ve reached a deal on the budget that allows us to balance the budget and raise the revenue for the budget in a way that’s not only fiscally responsible but ensures that we can continue to grow this economy for every single Vermont,” Shumlin said, with House Speaker Shap Smith and Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell on either side of him. Details of the $30 million in new taxes raised to balance the 2016 fiscal year budget were to be released later Saturday. “Everyone has given a little. I think it’s an incredibly sensible plan and most importantly we’re meeting our commitment that we all pledged to keep in this building in January of closing a budget gap by making smart choices for Vermonters and ensuring that our budget is sustainable going forward,” the governor said. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers strike tax deal without gov’s approval

MONTPELIER — House and Senate negotiators were nearing a deal on a $30 million revenue package early Saturday morning that will help balance the 2016 fiscal year budget and close a projected $113 million gap — but includes provisions Gov. Peter Shumlin has said he does not support. The bulk of the new revenue comes from changes to the income tax code. Both the House and Senate have agreed with the governor to raise $15 million by eliminating taxpayers’ ability to deduct their prior year local and state taxes on their state returns. But the House and Senate are also looking to raise about $10.5 million by making changes to how much taxpayers can deduct. Under the plan lawmakers were nearing agreement on, income tax deductions would be capped at two times the standard deduction — about $25,000 for a couple. Continue Reading →

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House GOP will support veto of tax bill

MONTPELIER — House Republicans voted in caucus Thursday afternoon to help sustain a veto of a revenue bill — if Gov. Peter Shumlin elects to veto the legislation — as House and Senate negotiators look to finalize how they will raise money to support the state budget. GOP Leader Don Turner, of Milton, asked his caucus to take a position Thursday as negotiators continued to work. “It’s my feeling that if the governor is going to step up and help us … then I think that’s a good thing,” Turner said. Shumlin is opposed to how lawmakers have chosen to raise revenue. The House plan caps income tax deductions at 2.5 times the standard deduction. Continue Reading →

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Capitol Beat 5-11-15


Barre-Montpelier Times Argus Editor Steve Pappas and Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami discuss the sexual assault case against Sen. Norm McAllister, R-Franklin, the last week of the session and Bernie Sanders. http://www.vermontpressbureau.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Capitol-Beat-5-11-15.mp3 Continue Reading →

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