State Government

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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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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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Listen: Capital Beat Podcast 1.20.17

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Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and Vermont Public Radio political reporter Peter Hirschfeld chat with Conservation Law Foundation staff attorney Elena Mihaly and Lake Champlain International Executive Director James Ehlers about the clean water effort in Vermont. 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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Welch warns state lawmakers about pending health care changes

Democratic Congressman Peter Welch speaks to Vermont lawmakers about potential changes to federal health care policy that will impact the state after Republican President-elect Donald Trump takes office Friday. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Congressman Peter Welch told Vermont lawmakers Wednesday that he is working to thwart Republicans from completely unraveling the Affordable Care Act, an action he said would be “one of the most reckless fiscal actions.”

Welch, a Democrat and the state’s lone member of the U.S. House, will begin serving under his third president Friday when Republican President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office. He was first elected in 2006, and served two years under President George W. Bush and eight years under President Barack Obama. During Obama’s tenure, House Republicans voted 65 times to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act, a landmark health care reform bill Obama signed into law. Now, with a Republican Congress and an incoming Republican Congress, Welch warned Wednesday that major changes are coming that could be disruptive to Vermonters and all Americans. “It’s as though the discussion is ideological, that getting rid of this will give people more freedom,” he told lawmakers. 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 explains the sale of Dubois Construction

Gov. Phil Scott briefs reporters on the sale of his share in Dubois Construction, which does business with the state. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has sold his share of a construction business and will be paid $2.5 million by the firm over a 15-year period. Scott, pledging to be transparent and open about the sale, briefed reporters Friday on its terms. Scott had been a half partner in the company, Dubois Construction, which bids on state contracts, before the sale close on Dec. 30. “I signed a sales agreement and sold my shares back to Dubois Construction,” Scott said. Scott said he chose to sell his share back to the company and finance it himself. Continue Reading →

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State to pay Blue Cross $3.5 million to settle billing discrepancies

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MONTPELIER — State officials have agreed to pay Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont $3.5 million to close out the insurer’s line of business through the state’s online insurance marketplace in 2015. The additional payment to Blue Cross comes after a months-long reconciliation process that was required to help settle discrepancies within the billing and enrollment system of Vermont Health Connect, the state’s online health insurance exchange set up through the federal Affordable Care Act. The agreement between the state and Blue Cross was finalized late last year by the administration of former Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, who left office last week as Republican Gov. Phil Scott was sworn in. Cory Gustafson, Scott’s Department of Vermont Health Access commissioner, confirmed the $3.5 million settlement Thursday. Gustafson worked as the director of government and public relations for Blue Cross at the time of the settlement before being tapped to served in Scott’s administration. 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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