Appropriations

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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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Scott: Trump looking to tone down immigration rhetoric

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said he believes Republican President Donald Trump is looking to walk back his rhetoric on immigration after attending meetings with the president on Sunday and Monday. Scott was in Washington, D.C., over the weekend and into Monday for a National Governors Association meeting. Scott attended the annual Governor’s Ball at the White House on Sunday evening, as well as a meeting at the White House with the president Monday morning. The White House events were a first for Scott, who told reporters last week that he had never before visited the famed building, even as a tourist. Scott has emerged as one of the president’s most vocal critics when it comes to immigration policy among the Republican governors. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers seek reworked budget

MONTPELIER — Leaders of the House and Senate are delicately rejecting the governor’s budget proposal as they hunker down on crafting a spending plan of their own that is likely to include budget cuts and, perhaps, some new revenue. Gov. Phil Scott released his budget proposal last month, which addressed the state’s projected $70 million budget hole in the 2018 fiscal year by moving some general fund obligations to the education fund. The proposal relies on local school districts level-funding their 2018 fiscal year budgets to avoid a massive increase in property taxes. But lawmakers have already rejected one key portion of Scott’s proposal — moving school budget votes from Town Meeting Day to May 23. The Senate Education Committee and the full House held votes rejecting the change in the voting date. Continue Reading →

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Scott proposes level budget, seeks education mandates from Montpelier

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:15 p.m.

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott has proposed a massive makeover of the state’s education system that focuses on students from pre-K 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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Scott promises a new era of state government

MONTPELIER — Phillip B. Scott, Vermont’s 82nd governor, was sworn into office Thursday afternoon before promising in his inaugural address to bring a “centrist governing philosophy” to the office while focusing on making the state more affordable for its residents. Scott, 58, succeeded Peter Shumlin, the now former Democratic governor, who set the state on a course of bold action. Scott, in his 30-minute address, described a more subdued approach to governing. He said his administration would focus on four core issues — continuing the fight against opiate addiction, revitalizing the state’s approach to economic development, transforming the education system and building a sustainable state budget. But while he described the initial themes of his governorship, he offered few policy prescriptions to achieve them, promising more in the weeks to come. Continue Reading →

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Leahy chooses leadership role in Appropriations

MONTPELIER — U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy is giving up his ranking member status on the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of a leadership role on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Leahy, currently the Senate’s longest-serving member, announced his decision to his staff Wednesday morning, according to spokesman David Carle. “The results of this election have reshaped the policymaking landscape in Washington and show the need for checks and balances, now that one party controls the White House as well as both houses of Congress,” Leahy said in a statement. “There are many challenges ahead. Against this new backdrop, I have decided that I will best be able to represent Vermonters’ voices, and reflect Vermont values and ideals, as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.”

Leahy turned down an opportunity in 2012 to become chairmen of the Appropriations Committee after the death of Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, but chose to remain at the helm of Judiciary. Continue Reading →

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LIHEAP benefits to increase this winter

MONTPELIER — State officials said Thursday that a home heating assistance program will increase its benefit level for most beneficiaries during the upcoming winter season. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, funded by both state and federal dollars, will see its average benefit rise from $699 last winter to $865 this winter, according to Gov. Peter Shumlin, Agency of Human Services Secretary Hal Cohen and Department for Children and Families Commissioner Ken Schatz. The average benefit is expected to cover about 54 percent of heating costs for households. The state officials said they anticipate receiving $18.9 million in federal funding this year for the LIHEAP program. That will be added to about $3.8 million in leftover money from last year plus the state contribution approved in the 2017 fiscal year budget. Continue Reading →

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VSEA, Democratic candidates call for funding labor contract

MONTPELIER — The Vermont State Employees Association and the three Democratic candidates for governor are calling on lawmakers to fully fund a new labor contract for state workers recommended by the Vermont Labor Relations Board, but Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin says it is too costly. The VSEA and the candidates — Matt Dunne, Sue Minter and Peter Galbraith — held a State House news conference Wednesday calling on the Legislature to include a 2 percent salary increase for state workers in the 2017 fiscal year state budget and a 2.25 percent increase in the 2018 fiscal year budget. That increase was recommended by the Vermont Labor Relations Board Tuesday in a 3 to 2 split decision over the Shumlin administration’s proposal for a 1 percent increase in 2017 and a 1.25 percent increase in 2018. VSEA President Dave Bellini said Wednesday the union has been seeking a fair contract through collective bargaining since last August that respects state employees. “You show respect and support by putting your money where your mouth is — funding our contracts, our retirements, making investments in safety for the hardworking Vermonters who are state employees,” he said. Continue Reading →

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