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Ashe: Governor needs funding source for new spending

MONTPELIER — Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe said the state Senate is moving forward on crafting a state budget that does not include any of Gov. Phil Scott’s proposed new spending unless he provides lawmakers with a different plan to pay for it. The governor’s proposed 2018 fiscal year state budget included new spending for early and higher education as well as housing. But the new spending was covered by shifting some general fund obligations to the education fund, a move lawmakers have all but rejected. Ashe, a Chittenden County Democrat, told reporters Tuesday at his weekly briefing that the new spending will be off the table unless the governor and lawmakers can agree on other areas to cut to cover it. Scott has maintained his promise not to balance the state budget with new taxes or fees, making closing a projected $70 million gap a larger challenge. Continue Reading →

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Rutland Senate delegation introduces Scott education plan

MONTPELIER — Rutland County’s three-person Senate delegation has introduced legislation that would codify into law the far-reaching education reforms Gov. Phil Scott proposed in his budget address Tuesday. The three Republican senators — Peg Flory, Kevin Mullin and Brian Collamore — were sought out by Scott ahead of his budget address, according to Flory. “Gov. Scott reached out to us … sometime last week and explained that he was going to be making a proposal that would need some legislation,” she said Wednesday. “So we had legislative counsel draft it and we agreed to sponsor it for him.”

Scott surprised many when he called Tuesday for lawmakers to pass legislation that would require teachers to pay at least 20 percent of their health care insurance premiums. That would put them on equal footing with state employees, and close to workers in the private sector. But health care costs are typically part of the collective bargaining process between local school boards and teachers’ unions. Continue Reading →

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Sanders finally backs Minter, statewide Dems

MONTPELIER — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has finally proffered his coveted endorsement to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Sue Minter and the entire slate of statewide Democratic candidates. Sanders, easily the most popular politician in the state, announced his endorsements in a news release Thursday afternoon without any fanfare. They include U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, his colleagues in Congress. For state offices, Sanders is backing Treasurer Beth Pearce, Auditor Doug Hoffer, Secretary of State Jim Condos and T.J. Donovan for attorney general. Chittenden County Sen. David Zuckerman, the Democratic and Progressive nominee for lieutenant governor, was previously endorsed by Sanders. Continue Reading →

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WATCH: Capitol Beat — Week 1 at the State House

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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Gov candidates talk business

MONTPELIER — The four candidates for governor made their cases Wednesday that each of them would be the best person to support the manufacturing industry in Vermont. Republican candidates Bruce Lisman and Phil Scott — and Democrats Matt Dunne and Sue Minter — addressed taxes, education and refugees during the 95th annual meeting of the Associated Industries of Vermont, which represents the manufacturing industry in the state. Lisman, who is running on his extensive business experience — having managed more than 2,300 employees in the financial, insurance and electric utility sectors — discussed the issues he sees holding back manufacturing and, ultimately, the state economy. “I think we all see the same problems: a stagnant economy, declining school enrollment, rising property taxes, ballooning state budgets and a shrinking manufacturing base, among other challenges,” Lisman said. “This all fundamentally stems from Vermont’s lack of economic competitiveness.”

Lisman offered a number of proposals, such as streamlining the permit process for construction and and examining all legislation to determine the impact it would have on businesses and the cost of living for workers. Continue Reading →

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Zuckerman kicks off lt. gov. campaign

BURLINGTON — David Zuckerman is banking that progressive values will lead him the second-highest office in the state. The two-term senator from Chittenden County formally kicked off his campaign for lieutenant governor Thursday night before nearly 200 cheering supporters, with a promise to continue the work he has carried out in the State House for nearly two decades. “As a state policy maker for nearly 20 years, I have worked to bring the Vermont work ethic, community-minded social values and common decency into Montpelier,” Zuckerman said. “I remember the sense of history we all felt when we passed civil unions. I have tried to focus on inequity and how to eliminate it and I’d like to bring that emphasis to the office of lieutenant governor.”

Zuckerman is currently serving his second term as a state senator, having previously served as representative for Burlington. Continue Reading →

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Commentary: Welch’s Stance Against Corn Ethanol

hen a Washington-based lobbying outfit started airing television ads in Vermont that attack Rep. Peter Welch because he wants to scale back federal support for corn ethanol, the erstwhile Vermonter in me took offense. It has been a few years since I lived in Vermont, but I was born in Burlington, grew up in Essex Junction, and graduated from Essex High. I now live near Boston, but I’ll probably always consider myself a Vermonter and I think I still have a working sense of what Vermonters value. Related:

Welch responds to attack ad

Vermonters value follow-through, which partly explains Rep. Welch’s skepticism about the Renewable Fuel Standard, a federal law that effectively requires Americans to put billions of gallons of biofuel into our cars each year. The policy is sustained mainly by Iowa’s peculiar role in presidential politics and by the corn ethanol lobby, which has a history of big claims and poor follow-through. Continue Reading →

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Grant will help study paid family leave

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Commission on Women has received a $174,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to study the implementation of paid family and medical leave in Vermont. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau announced a total of $1.55 million in grants to research and analyze how paid leave programs can be developed and implemented across the country. The Vermont Commission on Women, an independent non-partisan state commission dedicated to advancing rights and opportunities for women in Vermont, will utilize the grant to explore how paid family and medical leave can work in Vermont, according to Executive Director Cary Brown. “It’s really a collection of smaller projects that are part of an overall feasibility study,” she said. “We will be issuing a number of contracts with various individuals and organizations in order to conduct different parts of this.”

Brown said the commission is looking to explore potential administrative structures for providing paid leave in Vermont, as well both public and private funding options. Continue Reading →

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