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Vermont businesses may see decrease in costs, lawmakers say

MONTPELIER — Legislative leaders say Vermont businesses are expected to see a $28 million decrease in expenses this year from lower workers’ compensat ion and unemployment insurance costs. Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, D-Chittenden, and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, said projections from the Vermont Department of Labor indicate businesses will see the significant decrease in their costs. The reprieve in unemployment insurance costs comes as the state recovers from the Great Recession when the number of unemployed Vermonters surged. “The really good news for business out there is that between 2016 and 2017, between workers’ comp and unemployment insurance, businesses within the state of Vermont will see a $28 million reduction in expenses, which is, I think, pretty exciting and good news for businesses,” Johnson said. The speaker said projections show a $ 1 2 . Continue Reading →

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Amazon to collect state sales tax

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. to include comments from the governor’s office. MONTPELIER — Online retail giant Amazon has agreed to begin collecting and remitting the state’s sales tax, providing a boost in revenue as the state faces another gap between revenues and spending in the 2018 fiscal year budget. News of Amazon’s decision to collect and remit Vermont’s 6 percent sales tax beginning Feb. 1 emerged on Friday. It is expected to provide a significant boost to state revenue. Continue Reading →

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Scott proposes changes to the executive branch

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 rolls back proposed capital gains tax cut

MONTPELIER — Republican gubernatorial nominee Phil Scott is scaling back a proposal to cut taxes on capitals gains in the economic plan he rolled out two weeks ago after it was based on incorrect information. Scott, the incumbent lieutenant governor, distributed a glossy pamphlet at a news conference in Colchester on Sept. 15 that included a number of proposals he intends to enact as governor. Included in the pamphlet was a plan to restore a 40 percent exclusion on capital gains earnings that was reduced in 2009. But Scott spokesman Ethan Latour said the campaign made a mistake when crafting the proposal and based it on wrong information. Continue Reading →

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Scott releases economic plan, seeks tax cuts and credits

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 →

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House lawmakers look to “ban the box”

MONTPELIER — House lawmakers have given their overwhelming endorsement to a bill intended to make it easier for people with criminal histories to find employment. By a vote of 138 to 5, the House give preliminary approval to a bill that would — for the most part — prohibit employers from inquiring of a prospective employee’s criminal background on an application form. “The House’s vote to ban the box is a vote for compassion, redemption and opportunity,” House Speaker Shap Smith said after the vote. “The current policy of screening for criminal histories in preliminary job applications puts a barrier in the way of successfully finding employment. By removing this wall, Vermonters will have more opportunities to succeed.”

The bill still has a ways to go, pending a final vote of House lawmakers today and approval by the Senate. Continue Reading →

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Paid sick leave mandate heads to Gov. Shumlin’s desk

MONTPELIER — The House on Wednesday passed the Senate’s amended version of a paid sick leave bill a year after passing its own, sending it to Gov. Peter Shumlin’s desk to be signed into law — a dream that many on the left side of the political spectrum have waited years to achieve. The bill, H.187, had a relatively easy path to passage Wednesday after five separate amendments were withdrawn. All five amendments — including one from Rep. Alyson Eastman, an independent from Orwell, to include an exemption for small businesses — had already been rejected by the House General, Housing & Military Affairs Committee. Reps. Oliver Olsen, an independent from Londonderry, and Paul Dame, a Republican from Essex, also withdrew amendments, noting they were unlikely to pass. Continue Reading →

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Senate passes paid sick leave bill, again

MONTPELIER — Senate lawmakers once again approved a bill requiring employers to grant their workers paid sick leave. Wednesday afternoon, the Senate approved H.187, which will require all employers to offer three days of paid sick leave a year, beginning in 2018. “Tens of thousands of working Vermonters who have long lacked such basic protections as paid sick days eagerly await the bill being signed by Governor Shumlin to move us another step forward toward a society that protects health and human rights for all,” said Isaac Grimm, lead organizer at Rights and Democracy. The bill has had a long road, passing the House during the last legislative session before stalling in the Senate. This session, Senate lawmakers took up the bill, culminating with its passage last week. Continue Reading →

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Senate panel zeroes in on paid sick leave bill

MONTPELIER — A Senate panel is zeroing in on a paid sick leave bill that amends the version passed by the House last year to make it more palatable for the business community. The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs is expected to vote on the amended legislation Thursday morning after clarifying the expense it will have on the state as an employer. The bill is expected to easily clear the committee, according to Chairman Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland. The committee delayed a vote on Wednesday until the state Department of Human Resources could detail how much its bill would cost the state. The Senate bill looks to exempt the state from the mandate, except for temporary hourly workers. Continue Reading →

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