Tag Archives: Peter Shumlin

Walz tapped for House seat

MONTPELIER – Tommy Walz, a former educator from Barre City, has been tapped by Gov. Peter Shumlin to replace former Rep. Tess Taylor.

Walz was picked from a list of three candidates submitted to Gov. Shumlin by the Barre City Democratic Committee.

“I am pleased to appoint Tommy Walz to fill this opening,” Shumlin said in a statement. “His long-term commitment and service to the Barre community will make him an excellent voice for his constituents in the Vermont House of Representatives.”

Walz first moved to Barre in 1967 to teach English and German at Spaulding High School. He and his wife Leslie moved several times, including a stint living and working in Germany. Walz came returned to Vermont in 1979 where he again taught English at Spaulding High School before working in computer sales and data consulting.

“I am proud to be joining the Barre contingent in the Vermont House of Representatives,” Walz said in a statement. “Barre has given us much and Leslie and I have had the chance to return some small measure through volunteering and serving on local school boards. Representing the people of Barre City in the Vermont House provides yet one more way for me to serve my community.”

Walz currently serves on the Barre Supervisory Union Board and the Spaulding High School Board.

Taylor resigned from her seat in the House last month to serve as the executive director of Vermont’s Coalition for Universal Reform. The newly formed group is planning a push for Shumlin’s universal, publicly-financed health care plan.

Shumlin’s office said Walz will be sworn in “promptly.”

Small biz direct enrollment to last through 2015 open enrollment

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin administration told lawmakers Tuesday that small businesses will have the option to continue directly enrolling in health care insurance plans during the next open enrollment period slated for this fall.

Director of Health Care Reform Robin Lunge delivered the update to the Senate Finance Committee early Tuesday afternoon. Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, delivered the same message later to the House Health Care Committee.

“The good news that I have is that the feds have approved the ability for us to continue with direct enrollment moving forward through the 2015 open enrollment period for 2016 plans and our intention is to allow this as an additional option,” Lunge said.

Direct enrollment with the state’s two insurance carriers was a contingency plan offered by Gov. Peter Shumlin when the state’s federally mandated online insurance marketplace, Vermont Health Connect, failed to function properly at launch last October. Small businesses were able to bypass the exchange and deal directly with insurers.

Employees of small businesses with 50 or fewer employees are required by state statute to obtain health insurance through Vermont Health Connect. But the website still does not allow for online enrollment. Administration officials say they expect it to be working when the 2015 open enrollment period begins in October.

Larson said the direct enrollment option is in no way an indication that the exchange website will still not be fully functional by October. Rather, it provides Vermonters with additional ways to enroll in qualified health insurance plans, he said.

However, direct enrollment with insurance carriers provides a limited choice of insurance plans. Individual using the website can choose from 18 plans between the two carriers. Small business employees can only choose from four plans.

Larson said the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, which has approved the state’s request to continue direct enrollment, “is mindful of employee choice.” Larson said conversations with insurers are taking place to try and expand options.

“They are very interested in making sure that employees have the greatest ability to have choice in their plans as possible. That will be one of the conversations that we have, is how to do direct enrollment so employees continue to have access to as many plans as possible through their employer.”

House Health Care Committee Chairman Rep. Michael Fisher, following Larson’s appearance, said he is happy the direct enrollment option will be preserved for the next enrollment period.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that this piece of IT structure or that piece will be ready in time, and so I don’t have any confidence that anything is going to work until I see it working,” he said. “I think Vermonters are comfortable going through the carriers directly and I’m pleased that the administration moved to a place that is supporting that. So, I think that’s a good thing.”

neal.goswami@timesargus.com

Online payments go live on state exchange

MONTPELIER — The state’s online health insurance marketplace is now accepting payment online for premiums, the Shumlin administration announced Monday.

Individual Vermonters enrolling in insurance plans on Vermont Health Connect, the online marketplace mandated under the federal Affordable Care Act, can now pay for monthly premiums online, according to the Department of Vermont Health Access. The site underwent an upgrade over the weekend, officials said.

Small businesses will continue to enroll directly through the state’s two insurers — Blue Cross Blue Shield and MVP Health Care.

The payment system will now allow Vermonters to pay premiums with a debit card, credit card or direct deposit from a bank account in addition to paper checks.

“This is great news for all Vermonters using VHC to enroll in health plans. Paying online provides convenience for Vermonters, and we’re pleased this functionality is now up and running. Our focus over the next month is to continue to enroll Vermonters through VHC,” DVHA Commissioner Mark Larson said in a statement.

Administration officials said additional system upgrades over the weekend will allow VHC staff to better process applications and provide a better overall experience for users.

The addition of online payments comes months after the site launched last Oct. 1. At launch, the site experienced significant technological failures that prevented most users from selecting plans. Small businesses can still not enroll on the site and must do so directly through insurers.

GOP leaders seek federal investigation into exchange

MONTPELIER — Republican leaders in the Legislature are seeking a federal investigation into Vermont Health Connect based on an anonymous tip that a state contractor duped state officials last year.

House Minority Leader Don Turner of Milton and Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning of Caledonia County sent a letter Wednesday to Tristram Coffin, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont, requesting the investigation. The request is based on “whistleblower allegations alleging a fraudulent software demonstration on July 26, 2013 by CGI Technologies & Solutions.”

Newsweek published an article earlier this month in which an anonymous source said a demonstration by CGI last July designed to show connectivity with the state’s online insurance marketplace with a federal data hub was faked.

The exchange site, for which CGI has an $84 million contract to build, is still not fully functional, the GOP leaders wrote in their letter.

“We believe the unexplained and extensive delay, coupled with evidence suggesting the company in charge of designing the system may have duped Vermont officials into incorrectly thinking that the software system was working and on schedule, constitutes sufficient legal and factual predicate to begin a federal investigation,” they wrote. “If true, such a fraud prevented state officials from performing proper contractual oversight, prevented corrective measures, and helped CGI retain its multi-million dollar contract with the state.”

Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, has maintained that the July demonstration did feature a live connection with the federal data hub.

Linda F. Odorisio, vice president of communications for CGI, said in an emailed statement Wednesday evening that the demonstration did connect the state site to the federal hub.

“CGI confirms that the demonstration conducted on July 26, 2013 included a live interface to the Federal Data Services Hub, with the real time sending and receiving of data,” she wrote.

Vermont’s state of the state address makes the New York Times

In the nightly news budget they send out the New York Times had the Vermont State of the State address listed as one story in consideration for the front page for today's paper. Instead of A1, Gov. Shumlin's single-minded focus on addiction landed on A12, but still, a nice write up from Katharine Q. Seelye from the State House yesterday:

In Annual Speech, Vermont Governor Shifts Focus to Drug Abuse

MONTPELIER, Vt. – In a sign of how drastic the epidemic of drug addiction here has become, Gov. Peter Shumlin on Wednesday devoted his entire State of the State Message to what he said was a “full-blown heroin crisis” gripping Vermont.

 

House Dems to get 7-4 edge on health care committee with reassigment of Republican

The balance of power in the House Committee on Health Care will shift in favor of Democrats next year when House Speaker Shap Smith drops a Republican from the 11-person panel and replaces him with a member of the ruling party.

Gone from the committee, Smith said late Friday evening, is Rep. John Mitchell, a Republican from Fairfax now headed to the House Committee on Education. Replacing him is incoming Democratic Rep. Kathy Hoyt, appointed by Gov. Peter Shumlin earlier this year to replace the seat vacated by Margaret Cheney.

House Speaker Shap Smith said the move is designed to make way for a newly minted lawmaker whose “breadth and depth of experience are critically important as we move forward with health care reform.”

House Minority Leader Don Turner, however, said the shake up amounts to partisan maneuvering designed to undermine the influence of the GOP as the Democratic supermajority prepares to face tough questions over the troubled roll out of the new health insurance exchange.

“I’m very concerned and I’m very disappointed,” Turner said late Friday evening. “I think Vermonters will see through this – that Democrats don’t like tough questions when it comes to health care, and that by taking away a person who is asking those like tough questions may make it easier for them.”

The personnel change comes during the middle of the two-year biennium, and isn’t the only reassignment Smith confirmed Friday. Rep. Patti Lewis, a Berlin Republican, will move from education to the House Committee on Government Operations. Incoming Democratic Rep. Marjorie Ryerson, who filled the Randolph seat opened up by the death of Larry Townsend, will be assigned to the House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Rep. Rebecca Ellis, a Waterbury Democrat, will take over as vice-chairwoman of energy and natural resources, a position formerly held by Cheney.

Hoyt, who lives in Norwich, has a long career in government that includes stints as secretary of administration under former Govs. Madeline Kunin and Howard Dean. She was a also a member of a three-person panel that spent more than a year examining ways to overhaul the state’s tax structure.

With his “direct appointment” of Hoyt in September, Shumlin bypassed the conventional nominating process in which the local party committee forwards three names to the governor’s desk. Hoyt’s predecessor left when she accepted Shumlin’s appointment to a seat on the three-person Public Service Board.

“(Hoyt) is someone who has seen state government from every angle, and her experience will be invaluable on that committee,” Smith said.

Turner said that if Smith wanted to find room for Hoyt on the committee, he could have done so without eroding what little representation the GOP has on a panel that will be dealing next year not only with the exchange, but with the seeds of a public financing system for the single-payer system Shumlin has said will come online by 2017.

“I think it’s wrong,” Turner said. “I just don’t like that we’re going to have only two Republicans on one of the most important committees in the House right now.”

Smith said the composition of the Health Care Committee during the last session wasn’t reflective of the partisan make-up of the body. The six Democrats, one Progressive, one Independent and three Republicans, Smith said, didn’t mirror the near super-majority status of his party.

“It’s 6-5 committee right now, and the balance is different than most of the other committees, and that plays a role in the decision,” Smith said. “And it’s not an easy decision.”

That narrow margin led to some very public setbacks last session for the committee’s Democratic chairman, who saw his committee go against him on at least one high-profile vote.

Rep. Mary Morrissey, who will be one of two Republicans left on the Health Care Committee, said the change “disrespects” the work that Mitchell and the committee have done over the first half of the session.

Turner said he appreciated that the speaker called him earlier this week to inform him of his plan, and that Smith was willing to work with Republicans in determining which of the three would be sent to the education committee.

Turner said he thinks Hoyt’s experience on the Blue Ribbon Tax Commission, the panel that worked in 2009 to try to reform the income and sales tax, is one of the reasons Smith wants her on health care.

“From my perspective, I think they’re trying to figure out how they’re going to do single-payer,” Turner said. “And being a former member of that commission, I’m sure she has a lot of information about taxation.”

Smith said Hoyt’s facility with the tax code is one reason among many she’ll be a good fit on the committee.

“Certainly it helps that she was on the Blue Ribbon Tax Commission,” Smith said. “But it really is the breadth and depth of her experience.”

Darcie Johnston, head of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, which working to stymie progress toward single-payer, said the committee reassignments underscore the urgency of the opposition.

“This is a clearly partisan political move to rearrange the deck chairs to get the political result they want of moving single payer health care forward,” she said.

In speech at GOP fundraiser, Christie offers self up as “blueprint” for Republican resurgence

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (courtesy photo)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (courtesy photo)

“Candidates matter.”

That was the message from the Republican governor of New Jersey Wednesday night as he regaled nearly 700 members of the Vermont GOP with the story of his own unlikely rise to prominence in a state where politics tend to run the same shade of blue as in Vermont.

“Here’s our message: candidates matter. Candidates matter more than money. Candidates matter more than data mining… Candidates matter more than TV commercials and they matter more than mail pieces and they matter more than those incredibly annoying automated phone calls. They matter more than any of that,” Christie said Wednesday.

Media were barred from attending Wednesday’s fundraising gala at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction, but an audio recorder belonging to the Vermont Press Bureau made it past the gates. In addition to Christie, the recording captured speeches delivered by Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, who were among the lead organizers of an event they say marked the dawn of a new era in the Vermont Republican Party. Continue reading

Larson testimony was contrary to report filed with federal officials

MONTPELIER — Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson unequivocally denied any security breaches within Vermont Health Connect to lawmakers earlier this month, information that was contrary to what he apparently knew at the time of his testimony before the House Health Care Committee.

Larson penned a letter of apology over the discrepancy to the committee’s chairman on Sunday, which was made public by the Shumlin administration on Monday.

Larson was peppered with questions by Republican Rep. Mary Morrissey during a Nov. 5 hearing about Vermont Health Connect, the state’s version of the online health insurance marketplaces required under the federal Affordable Care Act. Morrissey was inquiring about security concerns with the website.

bilde

The Bennington Republican said she had heard of security breaches and asked Larson if any users’ personal information had been accessed in an unauthorized way.

Larson responded unequivocally that no security breaches had occurred.

“We have no situations where somebody’s private information has been breached,” he said. “We have looked into and we have found no situation where somebody’s private information has been breached.”

Seemingly unconvinced, Morrissey tried again: “There has been none?” she
asked.

“Yes. We have done the appropriate investigation of each case. We’ve identified … we have investigated each one. We have followed our appropriate privacy and security procedures,” Larson responded.

In his apology letter, Larson acknowledged in his response to those questions his failure to include information about one particular case, first reported on Friday by the Associated Press.

“During the November 5th committee hearing, I was asked about whether any security failures had occurred in Vermont Health Connect. I responded that no situation had occurred where somebody’s private information had been breached. I then attempted to clarify that we had investigated all reports and followed appropriate procedures. I should have instead also included in my response the facts of this single incident, and am sorry that my statements to the committee did not do so,” Larson wrote.

The AP reported Friday that Larson’s department knew of a security breach about three weeks before his testimony to the House Health Care Committee. His office had notified the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services about an incident in which the social security number of one person using Vermont Health Connect was inadvertently supplied to another user on the system.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, who spoke with reporters Monday at an unrelated event, said the breach was the result of two users with similar user names.

“One of them got the other one’s information and alerted us to that fact. It was not an external security breach where people can go in and see other people’s information,” Shumlin said.

The governor said he became aware of Larson’s testimony “in the last couple of days by reading about it in the press.” Despite Larson’s “lapse in judgment,” Shumlin said the commissioner maintains his full support.

“I have absolute confidence in Commissioner Larson. He’s under tremendous pressure. They all are at Vermont Health Connect. He’s doing an extraordinary job there, working long hours, seven days a week. They’ll continue to get that website right and get good results,” Shumlin said.

The governor said he did not at any point consider asking Larson to resign his post.

“It’s as simple as this: We all make mistakes. None of us are immune to making mistakes. Commissioner Larson has acknowledged he made a mistake. He viewed the question, differently than, I think, objectively, many of us would have. I take Mark at his word that he made a mistake. We’re all capable of them. I make them, too. We go forward from here,” Shumlin said.

Read tomorrow’s editions of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald for full coverage of this story by Dave Gram, the Associated Press reporter who broke news of the security breach last Friday.

Peter Shumlin, Shap Smith react swiftly, severely to Larson apology

Peter Shumlin

Peter Shumlin

In an unprecedented public dressing-down of a sitting member of his executive cabinet, Peter Shumlin today said he’s “tremendously disappointed” in a commissioner who withheld information lawmakers about a security breach on the new health insurance website.

House Speaker Shap Smith, meanwhile, said the incident will undermine Mark Larson’s ability to work with the legislative branch on the massive health care reform efforts that Larson’s department is spearheading.

To see Larson’s apology, and statements in full from Shumlin and Smith, click on the document links below.

“I take this incident extremely seriously. It is unacceptable to be anything less than fully cooperative and transparent with Vermonters and their elected representatives in the Legislature,” Shumlin said in a written statement issued earlier this morning.  ”The legislators in Montpelier represent the Vermonters we are all elected to serve, and they have a right to have their questions answered fully. That did not happen in this case, and I have made clear to Mark and other members of my administration that it must never happen again.” Continue reading

Report finds single payer costs may be higher than thought

####_loc_WebHealthMONTPELIER — An independent report delivered to lawmakers Thursday found that the savings estimated by the Shumlin administration in a proposed single payer health care plan may not be as high as projected.

Avalere Health LLC, commissioned by Vermont Partners for Health Care Reform, studied a previous report prepared for Gov. Peter Shumlin’s proposed universal health care system that he hopes will be implemented in 2017. The analysis presented by Avalere Thursday found three main areas of concern.

The Shumlin administration, based on its own study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, found that it would cost about $1.6 billion to finance Shumlin’s plan. The Avalere report believes that cost could be as high as $2.2 billion.

Administration officials countered Thursday by arguing that it still provides significant savings from the more than $3 billion spent annually on health care now outside of federal programs.

The report also noted that payments to providers are likely to drop, creating a disincentive for doctors to practice in Vermont.

Additionally, the administration may be projecting too rosy a scenario in terms of administrative cost saves, according the the Avalere report. The administration is projecting a savings based on a projected 12 percent administrative cost. The report states that the state’s largest insurance carrier, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, is already delivering insurance below the administration’s projected 7 percent under the proposed health care plan.

Vermont Partners for Health Care Reform includes Fletcher Allen Health Care, the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, the Vermont Medical Society, the Vermont Business Roundtable, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, the Vermont Assembly of Home Health and Hospice Agencies and Blue Cross.

A full story will appear in Friday’s Herald and Times Argus.

Administration reveals exchange delay plan

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin administration released details Friday on how it plans to handle short-term insurance policies resulting from a three-month delay in the state-level mandate for insurance coverage on Vermont Health Connect.

Both individuals and small businesses can now extend current plans up to three months to March 31 while maintaining current 2013 rates. Individuals who have received notification from their insurance carrier that a current policy will be canceled can extend the plan.

Deductibles for current plans will reset on Jan. 1 as they typically would for a new plan year. Accepting a plan extension into 2014 is essentially a short plan year, administration officials said.

However, any deductible amounts and out-of-pocket expenses paid during the short extension period will be applied to a new 2014 exchange plan as long as the insurance carrier remains the same, officials said.

Additional changes have added the option for small businesses to enroll in exchange plans directly through MVP or Blue Cross. Administration officials said Friday that small businesses will soon receive a notice from their insurance carrier with information about the exchange plan closest to their current plan. Businesses choosing to enroll in that plan will be automatically rolled into it and billed.

Businesses that want to select a different plan, enroll themselves on the exchange or switch insurance carriers will have to contact their current carrier by Nov. 25.

To avoid any lapse in coverage, small businesses must select a “plan menu” for employees by Feb. 1, and employees will need to select a plan by Feb. 28 for April 1 coverage.

Meanwhile, Vermonters on Vermont Health Access Plan or Catamount who do not qualify for Medicaid in 2014 will have their plans automatically extended to March 31. The administration has previously said they would take steps to reach out to those Vermonters and assist them on enrolling in an exchange plan before the end of the year.

A fact sheet is available here.

A full story will appear in Saturday’s editions of the Herald and Times Argus.

VHC

With new appointment, women outnumber men in House Democratic caucus

For the first time in the history of the state, women will outnumber their male counterparts in a major-party caucus of the Legislature.

Gov. Peter Shumlin Friday announced that he’ll appoint Marjorie Ryerson, of Randolph Village, to the House seat formerly held by Rep. Larry Townsend, a Democrat who passed away after an illness earlier this year.

Ryerson, a 40-year-old selectboard member who is a poet, writer and editor, according to an administration release, beat out two other candidates forwarded to Shumlin by the local Democratic committee.

“It was a difficult choice because there were three exceptional candidates,” Shumlin said in a release. “I am excited to make this appointment and I look forward to working with Marjorie in the upcoming legislative session. I know she will do a great job representing the district and working for all Vermonters.”

Ryerson’s appointment means women will hold a majority of the 96 House seats occupied by Democrats, the first time that’s happened in a caucus of either party in either body of the Legislature, according to the administration.

“It is both amazing and sobering that we should celebrate such a milestone only now in 2013,” House Speaker Shap Smith said in a written statement. “But it is a reflection of the tremendous strides that women have made in the last 30 years and is something that all Vermonters can and should celebrate.”

Ryerson, according to a press release, has been a writer and editor at a number of Vermont publications, including Vermont Life, the Barre Montpelier Times-Argus and the Burlington Free Press.

In September report, Shumlin administration told of “critical” problems with insurance exchange

Acknowledging the severity of the technological glitches in Vermont’s new health insurance website, Gov. Peter Shumlin Thursday issued a surprise announcement extending the deadline by which residents will have to enroll for policies in the new marketplace.

But key members of the administration have known since at least the middle of September of defects in Vermont Health Connect, some of which, they were told by outside consultants, were potentially substantial enough to derail the enrollment timeline.

In a 192-slide Power Point presentation, conducted on Sept. 11 and 12 and prepared at the behest of the federal government, managers at the Department of Vermont Health Access detailed a range of “risks” in the online marketplace, and presented “workarounds,” “mitigation” plans, and “contingencies.”

The so-called “Operational Readiness Review” also includes a presentation from Gartner, Inc., a Connecticut-based tech consultant hired to review the website. Gartner concluded that Vermont Health Connect should be given “RED” status – as opposed to ‘yellow’ or ‘green’ – “due to significant risks to meeting the October 1st deadline for Go-Live.”

The most “critical risks,” according to Gartner:

  • “Time in the schedule to remediate errors found in testing is minimal and unexpected difficulty in resolving system issues will put the schedule at risk. Concurrent System and User Acceptance Testing will be occurring in the Staging environment, which creates complexities in test execution (data management; user management; etc.).”
  • “The project schedule continues to be compressed as environment availability issues delay deployment and testing. Additional delays will put the Go-Live date of 10/1 in jeopardy. The project schedule must be updated to account for delays and changes immediately communicated to project stakeholders to determine resource and schedule impact.”
  • “Delivery of the production environments has been delayed and there is a risk there will not be sufficient time remaining in the project schedule to adequately test or address defects, potentially delaying the ability to go live on 10/1. Significant configuration issues delayed the availability of development environments and the production environments are significantly more complex.”

Verbiage used in the Gartner analysis is typical of the technolog-ese employed through the slide show, a copy of which is attached below. The document was requested first from the administration by former Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock.

Portions of the slide show – provided to the Vermont Press Bureau in a separate records request – have been redacted, because they contain information that could compromise the security of the site.

The slide show also features concerns about things like insufficient training for navigators; the ability of consumers to enroll through the web; and the lack of in-house manpower that might be needed to deal with the volume of paper applications in the event of online dysfunction.

That the administration knew about possible defects on the site isn’t revelatory – Shumlin, his health care czar Robin Lunge, and Commissioner of Vermont Health Access Mark Larson have long said there would “hiccups” and “bumps in the road.”

More surprising, perhaps, is the confidence Shumlin was conveying publicly as recently as last week, when he told a gaggle of skeptical reporters that everything was under control. Amid growing concern over problems being encountered by small businesses and individuals, Shumlin reassured the press that his team would have the problems solved in time to meet the Jan. 1 deadline by which Vermonters needed to have new plans, lest their existing policies lapse.

The new deadline gives residents until March 31 to make the transition, and will allow them to renew their existing policies for another three months. That move has prompted its own set of questions, including whether or not people who take advantage of the extension will be subject to a full yearly deductible for the three-month extension, or if it will be pro-rated based on the length of the term.

Asked on Vermont Edition today by Bob Kinzel whether he knew ahead of time how problematic the roll out might be, Shumlin said “we did not know the magnitude the challenges we were going to face.”

VT_Operational_Readiness_Review-Final-Deck_Redacted[1]

In documents from consulting firm, media strategies revealed

A story in Sunday’s editions of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald detailed the components of a $1.8 million contract in which the state of Vermont enlisted the services of a Washington, D.C., consulting firm for public outreach related to the new health insurance exchange.

GMMB, best known for its work on the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, is handling everything from media relations to the production of television advertisements. And the products they’ve delivered offer a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the battle for hearts and minds by the Shumlin administration.

Below, you’ll find source documents used for the story, including some previously unreported material on the “launch event,” in which the state was going to pay GMMB more than $125,000 to organize a single press conference on the day that Vermont Health Connect launched.

The administration, according to Commissioner of Vermont Health Access Mark Larson, ultimately decided to scrap the event, and will only pay GMMB for launch-event materials produced prior to the decision to forgo the press conference.

To read the contract itself, go to: http://dvha.vermont.gov/administration/5signed-package.pdf

Vermont Health Connect Communicators Guide 09 27

VT Earned Media Landscape 3 15 13

VT Earned Media Plan 04 05 13-1

Vermont Health Connect Launch Event 09 11 13

In memo to department heads, Shumlin administration seeks level-funded budgets for FY15

Top officials in the administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin have directed the heads of agencies across state government to deliver level-funded spending plans for next year’s budget.

In a memorandum issued Sept. 24 to executive branch managers, the Shumlin administration asks for fiscal year 2015 budget proposals that don’t exceed allocations for the current fiscal year. Given contractual increases in compensation for state employee, the rising cost of health insurance, and inflationary jumps in the cost of doing government business generally, Commissioner of Finance James Reardon said Thursday that the level-funding directive would require either cuts to programs or services, or cost-saving operational reforms.

“We’re going to have (increases in the cost of employee compensation) and other upward pressures in the budget,” Reardon said. “But they’re going to have to come back with corresponding reductions in other areas in order to come back with a general fund appropriation that is equal to their fiscal year 2014 appropriation.”

Reardon said the exercise is the first step in a long budget process, and that the guidance issued to agency heads won’t necessarily result in the cuts that a level-funded budget would inflict.

“This is a starting point for having budget discussions with agencies and departments,” Reardon said. “And this may not reflect our ending point.”

But with Shumlin having made clear his refusal next year to raise the income, sales or other broad-based taxes, Reardon said, fiscal discipline will need to be rigorous.

For more on this story, check out tomorrow’s editions of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald