Phil Scott

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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.)

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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Economists downgrade state revenue projections

The Emergncy Board, compromise of Gov. Phil Scott and the chairs of the Legislature's four money committees, met Thursday to receive an updated revenue forecast from economists. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Economists for the Scott administration and lawmakers say the state is expected to take in $24.6 million less in revenue during the remainder of the current fiscal year because of a significant decline in corporate income tax it is owed. Economists Jeff Carr and Tom Kavet, who work for the governor and Legislature, respectively, issued their twice yearly revenue forecast Thursday for the state’s Emergency Board. They declared Vermont’s economy is growing, albeit slowly, and prompting businesses to expand and hire. But that, in turn, is causing a drop in their profits as their expenditures increase, resulting in less corporate tax revenue for the state. “Revenues … absent one category would be upgraded this time. 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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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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Doyle honored by former colleagues

Bill Doyle, a former senator from Washington County, smiles as his former colleagues honored him Tuesday for his 48 years of service. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

MONTPELIER — Former Sen. Bill Doyle was honored on the Senate floor Tuesday by some of his closest colleagues from his 48-year tenure in the body. Doyle, 90, ran for re-election in November for what would have been his 25th term in the Senate. He came in a close fourth-place, however, in the three-seat Washington County district, bringing to a close his illustrious political career that began when he first won in the 1968 election. On Tuesday, Doyle, a Republican, was lauded by a bipartisan group of colleagues as much for his Senate career as he was for his tenure as a professor at Lyndon State College. Two of Doyle’s former students were in the Senate chamber Tuesday as members — and many more have served in the General Assembly during his decades as a professor of government. Continue Reading →

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Gun Sense renews push for universal background checks

Sen. Phil Baruth, D-Chittenden, speaks at a news conference about his legislation for universal background checks on all gun sales in Vermont. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Proponents of a law to require background checks on all gun sales in Vermont launched a renewed effort Tuesday to achieve their goal, but roadblocks in their way in previous legislative sessions remain. Gun Sense Vermont, a group pushing for universal background checks, hosted a State House news conference Tuesday to rally supporters. They promised to keep pushing for such a law despite stiff opposition from guns rights groups and even Republican Gov. Phil Scott. Sen. Phil Baruth, D-Chittenden, introduced S.6, a bill that again calls for universal background checks and has several co-sponsors. Baruth submitted similar legislation in recent years but has been rebuffed. Continue Reading →

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Ethics Committee is on the agenda in the State House

Sen. Anthony Pollina

MONTPELIER — Washington County Sen. Anthony Pollina says he is optimistic the Legislature will pass an ethics bill and create a State Ethics Commission to review and act on ethics complaints for those involved in state government. Lawmakers have hemmed and hawed for years on passing a tough ethics bill that would provide strong oversight over themselves and the executive branch of government. The Senate passed a measure last year very late in the legislative session that the House did not take up. Pollina, a Progressive, plans to introduce a bill that is nearly identical to last year’s and push for early action so both chambers have time to consider it. “I do think this will be the year that we’ll be able to make this happen. Continue Reading →

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Pomp and ceremony at the State House

Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman is sworn into office by Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson on Thursday at the State House. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — The transition to Vermont’s new state government for the next two years was completed Thursday as Republican Gov. Phil Scott was sworn into office along with the state’s additional statewide officers. The State House on Thursday was filled to capacity for the inaugural ceremonies. It was also swarming with police and uniformed military personnel — one of the few days each legislative session where security is so visible. Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive and Democrat, was sworn in Thursday morning in the Senate chamber. In his brief remarks he urged the Senators seated before him to consult with those closest to them as they conduct their business. Continue Reading →

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