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Vermont Medical Society calls for background checks, soda tax

Vermont Medical Society

MONTPELIER – The Vermont Medical Society is renewing the call for background checks for firearm purchases and an excise tax on sugar-sweetened drinks as part of its priorities for the upcoming legislative session. During its recent annual meeting – the 202nd for the organization – the Vermont Medial Society adopted resolutions that touch on issues that were debated during the last legislative session, in the hope they might receive a second look one day in the future. “There are a number of opportunities and challenges facing Vermont’s health care system during this time of great transition,” said James Hebert, M.D., the newly elected president of the Vermont Medical Society, which represents 2,000 physicians in the state. “By passing these resolutions, our members seek to impact health care public policy in our state, with our priorities being improving Vermonters’ health and protecting access to quality health care,” Hebert continued. The resolutions touch on a pair of issues that were debated and received little traction during the last legislative session, such as a call for background checks for all firearm sales, including the sale of firearms at gun shows, over the Internet, in classified ads and private sales. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin touts incentive programs

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

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin says Vermont’s small-ball approach to economic subsidies for businesses is paying dividends in the nationwide incentive battle with other states. Vermont, like other states, is engaged in a battle to both attract new businesses and retain existing ones. The high-stakes game involves vast sums of taxpayer funds to lure companies. In Vermont, the main tool available to state government is the Vermont Economic Growth Incentive. The program provides incentives from the state to businesses to encourage economic activity that would otherwise not occur without the incentive. Continue Reading →

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Incentive money for 2 firms OK’d

Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Emergency Board meet on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — The Emergency Board voted Monday to authorize incentives totaling $700,000 proposed by Gov. Peter Shumlin for two companies, with the money coming from an enterprise fund containing $2 million for economic development efforts. According to the Shumlin administration, $500,000 would go to G.W. Plastics in Bethel if the company accepts the terms. The company, as part of the deal, would create up to 73 new jobs to add to its current workforce of 300. The company has no available additional manufacturing space at the moment and recently signed a new contract for additional work orders, necessitating expansion. Gov. Peter Shumlin said G.W. Plastics has additional facilities in Texas, Arizona, Mexico and China and the proposed incentives are part of a pitch by the state for the company to expand here in Vermont. A potential new site has been identified by the company in New Hampshire, Shumlin 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.

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.  






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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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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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