Shumlin reflects on single payer failure

MONTPELIER — Former Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said money, wary lawmakers and timing were the core challenges that ultimately caused his failure to deliver on a promise to implement a single-payer health care system in the state. The former Democratic governor reflected on that failure Tuesday at a forum at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Shumlin ran for governor in 2010 on a platform that promised voters a single-payer system. But he announced after his 2014 re-election bid that his administration would not be moving forward with the plan. He cited the tremendous cost of the program and the burden that would be placed on the state’s limited tax base. Continue Reading →

Welch makes DACA case to Trump

MONTPELIER — Vermont Rep. Peter Welch said he believes Republican President Donald Trump wants to ensure there is protected legal status for Dreamers after taking part in a bipartisan meeting with him Wednesday afternoon. Welch, a Democrat, met with Trump, senior staff and about 14 members of Congress Wednesday afternoon in the Cabinet Room inside the White House. The conversation was largely focused on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. The president recently rescinded an executive order issued by former Democratic President Barack Obama that protected from deportation young immigrants, known as Dreamers, who were brought into the country by their parents or guardians as children. Welch said he was able to share a personal moment with Trump after the meeting and shared the story of a University of Vermont medical student who has dedicated his life to cancer research in other of his mother, who died of cancer. Continue Reading →

Sanders releases Medicare-for-all bill, passes on cost and funding

MONTPELIER — Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced his long-awaited Medicare-for-all legislation Wednesday, touting the support of 16 Democratic senators who signed on as co-sponsors, but plenty of crucial questions remain unanswered, including the cost. The support of one-third of the Democratic caucus in the Senate is a significant improvement for Sanders, who stood alone the last time he introduced a single-payer health care system in 2013. It reflects how Sanders, an independent, is shaping the future of the Democratic Party following his improbable run for the presidency in the Democratic Primary last year. The line-up of cosponsors includes a handful of senators pundits have eyed as potential Democratic presidential candidates in 2020, including Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. The bill Sanders laid out Wednesday include the broad goals of a generous, government-run health care system for the country. Continue Reading →

Governor is among 20,000 Vermonters to receive use tax letter

MONTPELIER — Vermont Gov. Phil Scott is among the 20,000 Vermonters to receive a notice from the Department of Taxes warning that they may owe the state money from the oft-ignored use tax. Rebecca Kelley, the Republican governor’s spokeswoman, confirmed to the Vermont Press Bureau Thursday that Scott recently received the letter. The state’s Tax Department sent the notices to thousands of Vermonters hoping to boost compliance with the 6 percent tax due on online and out-of-state purchases that were not subject to the state’s sales tax at the time of purchase. “He did receive one of the use tax letters from the Tax Department,” she said. “It shows you that there was no bias in who the letters were sent to.”

The governor, Kelley said, does not believe he owes any outstanding use tax. Continue Reading →

Scott’s pot commission seeks recommended legislation for 2019

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott will sign an executive order today creating the Governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission that will review myriad issues regarding the legalization of marijuana and look at 2019 for potential legislation to create a regulated retail market for pot. The first-term Republican is creating the commission after vetoing a bill in June passed by the Democratic-led Legislature that sought to legalize the possession of up to 1 ounce of dry marijuana and the cultivation of up to two mature marijuana plants and four immature plants beginning July 1, 2018. The bill would have also created a commission to craft legislation for lawmakers to consider during the 2018 legislative session that would create a regulated retail market for marijuana and review various issues related to legalization. Vermont would have been the first state to legalize marijuana through the legislative process if Scott had signed the bill. Other states that have already legalized the drug have done so through public referendums.

Scott worked with lawmakers to appease his concerns ahead of a June 21 veto session, but lawmakers quickly passed a budget that Scott had also vetoed, leaving no time to address the marijuana bill. Continue Reading →

Vermont joins multi-state suit to preserve DACA

MONTPELIER — Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan has joined a multi-state suit that seeks to prevent President Donald Trump from rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that has protected young immigrants from deportation. The lawsuit, led by New York Attorney General Schneiderman, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York Wednesday afternoon. “We are going to continue to protect all Vermonters, including the 42 DREAMers here in this state,” Donovan said. The Republican president announced his intention to rescind the program, known as DACA, on Tuesday. It was created through an executive order by former President Barack Obama. Continue Reading →

Scott announces downtown tax credit recipients

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said projects in Montpelier, Rutland and other Vermont communities are receiving $2.7 million in state tax credits to help fund redevelopment projects in downtown and village centers across the state. Scott said the tax credits approved by the state have generated more than $53 million in investment in 22 separate projects. In downtown Montpelier, a tax credit worth nearly $300,000 will help renovate the the two upper floors of the French Block, which have been vacant for more than 75 years. The two floors will contain 18 new apartments, including 14 affordable units, when the project is completed. The total project is expected to cost more than $5.4 million. Continue Reading →

Vermont Guard members head to Texas

MONTPELIER — Four members of the Vermont National Guard are heading to Texas this week to provide communications assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Maj. Gen. Steven Cray, adjutant general of the Vermont National Guard, said the four-person public affairs team are from the Vermont Army and Air National Guard. They will be stationed at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. Cray said they are heading to Texas at the request of the Texas National Guard and will provide public affairs support to the Defense Support of Civil Authority mission and conduct media operations. Continue Reading →

Vermont delegation wants legislation to protect DACA recipients

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s congressional delegation and the state’s Republican governor are condemning President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind an Obama-era program that protects young immigrants from deportation, and hoping Congress will act to keep them in the U.S.

The program was created through an executive order signed by former President Barack Obama in 2012. Until Tuesday, Trump went back and forth as a candidate and then as president on whether he would continue the program. The policy change initiated by Trump means that nearly 800,000 young immigrants who have been allowed to remain in the U.S. under the program, including 42 Vermonters, could face deportation after March 5, 2018. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Trump “has revealed he is as heartless as he is uninformed.”

“We live in an unprecedented time when our president seeks to divide us, not to unite us,” Leahy said in a statement. “He rallies his dwindling supporters by exploiting fear and resentment, marginalizing those who are vulnerable and even those who risk their lives for our country and communities. Continue Reading →

Governor to donate inaugural proceeds to military charities

ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (AP) — Republican Gov. Phil Scott is donating nearly $200,000 in proceeds raised from his inaugural gala to charitable organizations that help military members, veterans and their families. Scott announced the first award Thursday to the Vermont Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association. The donation went to purchase a 2017 Harley Davidson motorcycle that the group will raffle off to raise money for veterans causes. Scott says proceeds from the January inaugural gala will also be going to the Vermont Army National Guards’ military family programs, veterans’ organizations and a project to honor those killed while in service. Continue Reading →