Minter outlines tax policy

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MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial nominee Sue Minter says she will seek tax fairness as governor and look to lower the burden on low- and middle-income Vermonters by closing loopholes enjoyed by the wealthy and corporations. According to Minter, the tax policies she will propose as governor may incorporate some elements of the Blue Ribbon Tax Structure Commission report released in 2011. The report, which was shelved by policymakers in Montpelier, recommended expanding the sales tax to “all consumer-purchased services with limited exceptions for certain health and education services and business to business service transactions.”

Minter expressed an interest in dusting off the commission’s report during a WDEV radio debate on Sept. 14, saying she would look at expanding the base of the sales tax to include services. Her Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and the Vermont Republican Party pounced, announcing to Vermonters in a coordinated effort that Minter wants to tax hair cuts, among other services that Vermonters pay for. Continue Reading →

Top Shumlin administration official heading to lobbying firm

Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson

MONTPELIER — Outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin’s top administration official is leaving state government at the end of the month to join a Montpelier-based lobbying firm. According to the administration, Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson will leave his government post on Sept. 30. He will join MMR, Inc., to head up a new division that focuses on international projects, particularly climate change initiatives, according to MMR. Johnson’s position will focus on helping governments meet their goals and obligations under the Paris climate accord that has been signed by more than 170 countries. “We are excited to help facilitate the critical conversations between business and government
that will be so important to meeting regional, national, and international climate change goals,” MMR President Andrew MacLean said in a statement. Continue Reading →

Gubernatorial candidates take on women’s issues

Candidates for governor share a moment of levity during a forum — co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Vermont, the Vermont Commission on Women and Vermont Federation of Business and Professional Women — at the State House in Montpelier on Thursday. From left are Liberty Union candidate Bill Lee, Democratic candidate Sue Minter and Republican candidate Phil Scott. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — All three candidates for governor shared a table for the first time Thursday at a State House forum sponsored by the Vermont Commission on Women focused on issues important to women. It was the first time in the general election campaign that Democrat Sue Minter, Republican Phil Scott and Liberty Union candidate Bill Lee all appeared together. Scott has made it a condition that Lee be invited to all forums and debates, and he skipped the traditional debate on WDEV last week because Lee was not invited. Scott’s presence was noted by Minter. “I’m glad I don’t have to again debate an empty chair. Continue Reading →

Story + Podcast: Shumlin narrows focus in final months

Gov. Peter Shumlin
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Listen: Capital Beat Podcast with Gov. Peter Shumlin

MONTPELIER — With just three months left in office, Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin says he plans to push hard to complete a handful of projects before his successor is sworn into office in early January — including an overhaul of how the state pays for health care services. Shumlin, who is not seeking re-election after his third term expires, reflected in an interview about his time in office and pledged to continue his work until his final day as governor. “This is the best job that anyone can ask for, being governor of Vermont. It’s been an extraordinary privilege. One thing that governors do every day is focus on what they were elected to do, which is to grow prosperity, grow jobs, make sure our state remains the best place to live and work and raise a family. Continue Reading →

Scott releases economic plan, seeks tax cuts and credits

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the Republican nominee for governor, discusses his economic plan at Firetech Sprinkler in Colchester. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

COLCHESTER — Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the Republican nominee for governor, released an economic plan Thursday that he says will focus on major fiscal issues and lead to a more vibrant economy. Scott, who co-owns Dubois Construction with a cousin, released the plan at a news conference at Firetech Sprinkler, saying it will lead to job creation and help lift wages for Vermonters. He chose to hold the press conference Thursday morning rather than attend a debate hosted by WDEV radio at the Tunbridge World’s Fair with his Democratic opponent, Sue Minter. “As a small business owner myself, I put my faith in the skills, work ethic and ingenuity of working Vermonters every single day. That’s why Vermonters can count on me to lead a state government that leverages our talented work force and our commitment to hard work and innovation,” he said. Continue Reading →

Blue Cross Blue Shield: Vermont Health Connect owes $6.2 million

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MONTPELIER — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont is seeking $6.2 million from the state for premiums the insurer did not receive and claims it paid out after the state had terminated individual insurance plans, according to the company and state officials. BCBS and the state are engaged in a reconciliation process to settle the books for health insurance plans sold on Vermont Health Connect, the state’s online health insurance exchange, during 2015. It is the second year that reconciliation is taking place. The state paid $1.6 million to settle the book of business in 2014. A public records request made by the Vermont Press Bureau seeking documents related to the 2015 reconciliation process was returned by the Department of Vermont Health Access, but all 125 pages had all relevant information related to the request redacted. Continue Reading →

Minter, Leahy launch general election ads

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Editor’s note: This story was updated at 1:15 p.m.

MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter is on the airwaves with her first general election television ad, while Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy has launched his first two television ads of the Senate campaign. Minter, a former secretary of the Agency of Transportation, launched an ad Tuesday that looks to highlight her management skills. It focuses on her work helping the state recover from Tropical Storm Irene and and serving on President Barack Obama’s Climate Preparedness and Resilience Task Force. A narrator lays out what Minter’s goals as governor will be. “As Governor, Sue Minter will make sure our children can stay and succeed here in Vermont with affordable education and livable wage jobs, a governor who will put Vermont families first,” the narrator says. Continue Reading →

Scott releases health care plan, seeks to close exchange

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott speaks about his health care plan at a news conference in Burlington. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

BURLINGTON — Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the Republican nominee for governor, released a health care plan Wednesday that seeks to scuttle the state’s online health insurance exchange and undo other initiatives put in place by outgoing Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. Speaking at a news conference on Burlington’s Church Street, Scott linked his health care proposals to the major theme of his campaign — making the state more affordable. “For a lot of people who live here or who are thinking about living here, I think the affordability crisis will be the defining issue during this election,” he said. “One of the many reasons Vermont is unaffordable for so many Vermonters is because of the cost of health care.”

Scott reiterated his call Wednesday to scrap Vermont Health Connect in his first major policy proposal of the gubernatorial campaign. He has been calling on the state to abandon its own exchange for several years in favor of joining either the federal exchange or a multi-state exchange that does not yet exist. Continue Reading →

Shumlin headed to Washington to negotiate all-payer model

Gov. Peter Shumlin

MONTPELIER — Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and his top health care team will meet with federal officials next week to continue negotiations on a major transformation in how health care is paid for in the state. Shumlin, a Democrat whose tenure in office will end in January after three terms, is seeking a transformational shift in the state’s health care system. He said at an unrelated news conference Wednesday that he and top aides will meet with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell to help negotiations that have been ongoing for months. “One of the things I’m really focused on is getting this done before we’re done, and I know President Obama shares my goal in doing that,” the governor said. “I’m going to be meeting with the secretary next week. Continue Reading →

Attorney General: Sanders’ email did not violate campaign finance law

Sen. Bernie Sanders

BURLINGTON — The Vermont attorney general’s office says an email from Democratic U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ encouraging supporters to contribute to a Vermont state Senate candidate’s campaign did not violate the state’s campaign finance laws. A Vermont Republican Party official had asked the attorney general’s office to investigate whether Sanders, who was running for president, made an improper campaign donation by urging email recipients to donate to Rep. Christopher Pearson’s campaign. Pearson, a member of Vermont’s Progressive Party, went on to win the Democratic nomination for one of Chittenden County’s six Senate seats in the August Primary. Democratic Attorney General William Sorrell said Tuesday that the email was not “express advocacy for the election of Pearson” so it doesn’t meet the definition of the type of speech regulated by the state statute. Continue Reading →