Taxes

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Shumlin seeks 3.1 percent boost in FY2017 budget, expansion of provider assessment

Gov. Peter Shumlin delivers the final budget address of his governorship inside the House chamber. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin is looking to address a deficit in the state’s Medicaid program by expanding a tax on health care providers in the $1.537 billion 2017 fiscal year budget proposal he revealed Thursday. Shumlin, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election, delivered the final budget proposal of his tenure to lawmakers Thursday. His proposal, outlined in his 30-minute address inside the House Chamber, would boost spending by 3.1 percent over the current fiscal year — after mid-year adjustments are put in place. Shumlin touted his budget as responsible and necessary, noting he closed a projected $68 million gap between anticipated revenues and spending without the use of one-time funding for ongoing expenses for the first time since before the Great Recession. The 3.1 percent spending increase matches projected revenues, he said. Continue Reading →

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State revenues get slight downgrade

Economists Tom Kavet and Jeff Carr deliver an updated revenue forecast to the Emergency Board. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Economists for the Shumlin administration and the Legislature have revised projected state revenues downward for the remainder of the current fiscal year and the next fiscal year for the general and education funds. The new consensus forecast was delivered to the Emergency Board Tuesday by Tom Kavet and Jeff Carr, consulting economists for the administration and lawmakers. The general fund is now expected to see $4.7 million less revenue in the current 2016 fiscal year and $9.1 million less in the 2017 fiscal year. The education fund, meanwhile, is expected to see $1 million less in the current fiscal year and $500,000 less in the 2017 fiscal year. The transportation fund is now expected to grow by $900,000 more in the current fiscal year and $1.1 million more in the 2017 fiscal year. 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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Gov council recommends steps to end poverty and homelessness

Christopher Curtis

MONTPELIER — A governor-appointed council is issuing recommendations to end homelessness and poverty in Vermont. Members of the Governor’s Council on Pathways From Poverty discussed a recent report that seeks to end the cycle of poverty in the state and match people at risk of homelessness with permanent homes. “We have got to end the ceaseless cutting of the safety net in Vermont,” said Christopher Curtis, co-chairman of the Governor’s Council on Pathways From Poverty, and an attorney for Vermont Legal Aid. “We have seen, year after year, the drip-drip cuts to essential programs and services, and those are simply poor taxes,” Curtis continued. “In a state where we routinely hear Vermonters cannot afford anymore taxes, policymakers are levying taxes on those who can least afford to pay.”

Co-chairwoman Linda Ryan discussed the proposal to levy a tax of $2 per night on hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts, which the council anticipates would raise $12 million annually. Continue Reading →

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Cadillac Tax impact less than initial estimates

Michael Costa (VPR photo)

MONTPELIER — The impact of a tax on high-end insurance plans slated to begin in 2018 is not expected to impact the state as much as initially thought, according to the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office and the Shumlin administration. The so-called Cadillac Tax, part of the federal Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, will impose a 40 percent non-deductible excise tax on health insurance plans that exceed $10,200 for an individual and $27,500 for a family beginning in 2018. The tax is indexed to inflation and will rise over time. “We have some IRS guidance, but federal regulations have not been issued. To be perfectly candid, the IRS guidance raises as many questions as it answers. Accordingly, whether and how to properly average benefit costs and adjust tax thresholds still needs additional clarification. Continue Reading →

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Experts debate carbon tax in Vermont

Panelists debate the merits of a carbon tax before a large audience at the Capitol Plaza in Montpelier on Thursday night. From left are John McClaughry, Rob Roper, Paul Burns and Jon Erickson. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — Can 600,000 Vermonters slow the effects of climate change? That was the essential question posed Thursday night before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 during a debate on the merits of imposing a tax on carbon emissions. During the upcoming legislative session that begins in January, lawmakers are expected to discuss a pair of carbon tax proposals offered by Rep. Christopher Pearson, P-Burlington, and Rep. David Deen, D-Putney. Thursday’s discussion was set against the backdrop of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where, next week, Gov. Peter Shumlin will discuss Vermont’s efforts to curb carbon emissions and encourage the creation of renewable energy. Speaking in favor of a carbon tax were Paul Burns, of the Vermont Public Interest Research Interest Group, and Jon Erickson, an economist and a fellow with the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute. 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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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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