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Senate advances budget and tax bills unanimously

MONTPELIER — The Senate advanced its version of the 2018 fiscal year state budget and a corresponding tax bill Wednesday on unanimous votes. The Senate’s spending plan, passed on a 30 to 0 vote, includes a $1.56 billion General Fund, which is 1.7 percent higher than the current 2017 fiscal year budget. It is slightly lower than the House-passed version, however, which grew 1.8 percent over the current year. Overall, the Senate’s total state budget including all state and federal funds totals $5.83 billion — slight more than the House’s $5.815 billion in total spending. The Senate version spends more than $13 million in ways that differ from the House proposal, which cleared the House on a 143 to 1 vote. Continue Reading →

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Scott seeks teacher health care overhaul as Dems, union balk

MONTPELIER — With the legislative session winding down, Gov. Phil Scott is pushing a proposal for a major overhaul of the way Vermont teachers negotiate their health care benefits, leaving Democrats puzzled as to why he did not present a detailed proposal sooner. Scott held a State House news conference Tuesday, surrounded by superintendents and school board members, to tout his proposal to have teachers across the state negotiate their health care benefits with his administration, rather than with local school boards. He said the state is in a unique position this year to save Vermont’s property taxpayers $26 million. That’s because the health care plans offered to teachers by the Vermont Education Health Initiative are changing as a result of the federal Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. As a result, all local school boards across the state are negotiating new health care benefits with teachers. Continue Reading →

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Finance commissioner to depart at end of fiscal year

MONTPELIER — Vermont Department of Finance and Management Commissioner Andrew Pallito is planning to leave his post at the end of the current fiscal year for a position with the Green Mountain Care Board. Rebecca Kelley, spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Phil Scott, confirmed Monday that Pallito is planning to work for the administration through the end of June before departing. “He is leaving but he is committed to seeing the budget process through. He will continue to work with us on that and will be with us through the end of the fiscal year,” Kelley said. “There should be no change in how we’re moving forward on the budget process.”

Pallito did not return phone and email messages Monday, but Susan Barrett, the board’s executive director, said Pallito has accepted a position to become the director of health system finances for the Green Mountain Care Board, the state’s health care regulatory body. Continue Reading →

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Listen: Capital Beat Podcast 4.19.17

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Stewart Ledbetter, an anchor and the senior reporter at WPTZ, joins Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and Vermont Public Radio political reporter Peter Hirschfeld on the podcast. Topics include the Scott administration’s concern about an appointment to the Green Mountain Care Board by the previous governor, Gov. Phil Scott’s first 100 days in office and the latest wrinkle in the effort to merge the Department of Liquor Control and the Vermont Lottery Commission. Subscribe on iTunes for the latest episodes of the Capital Beat Podcast. Continue Reading →

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Scott: Nomination flawed but acceptable if confirmed

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday he will accept an appointee to the Green Mountain Care Board made by the previous governor if the Senate votes to confirm her, even as his administration continues to voice concerns about whether she should be confirmed. Robin Lunge was appointed to a six- year term on the Green Mountain Care Board, the state’s health care regulatory body, by former Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin in mid- November before he left office in early January. She began serving in an interim capacity as a board member on Nov. 28 because the Senate was not in session and could not immediately act to confirm the nomination. But as Vermont Public Radio reported Monday, the paperwork that i s typically filed when such an appointment is made could not be located when the Senate Health and Welfare Committee recently tried to act to confirm Lunge’s appointment. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers push for Liquor-Lottery merger

MONTPELIER — Two lawmakers are proposing an amendment to merge the Department of Liquor Control and the state’s Lottery Commission in January as the House prepares to debate legislation Tuesday that creates a working group to study the issue. The legislation up for debate Tuesday comes on the heels of a resolution passed by the House last week that nullified an executive order from Republican Gov. Phil Scott that would have merged the two entities beginning this week. Scott signed the executive order in January, but state law allows either the House or Senate to nix such a restructuring of the executive branch with a resolution. While the Scott administration has questioned whether that de facto veto power of the executive branch is constitutional, it has not yet moved to challenge it. On Tuesday, Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Chittenden, who was appointed to the House by Scott last week to fill a vacancy, is sponsoring an amendment along with Rep. Jim Condon, D-Colchester, to merge the Department of Liquor Control and Lottery Commission beginning Jan. Continue Reading →

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Gov. Scott picks Harrison for House seat

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has chosen former Vermont Retail and Grocers Association President Jim Harrison to fill the remainder of former Republican Rep. Job Tate’s term in the Vermont House. Harrison, 63, of North Chittenden, retired from VRGA at the end of 2016 after nearly 30 years leading the organization. Tate, who was serving his second term representing the Rutland-Windsor 1 House district, resigned Friday as he prepares for a lengthy overseas deployment with the Navy Seabees. Harrison said he received a call from Scott Monday evening and was told he would be appointed to replace Tate. “I am very, very honored and flattered to be appointed to fulfill Job’s House seat. Continue Reading →

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Scott praises House budget work, seeks some concessions

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott heaped praise on a budget plan crafted by House Democrats Wednesday, noting they followed his directive to forego raising taxes and fees. Still, the governor said he is hoping the House budget plan will still be amended Thursday and Friday as the full House debates the proposal to incorporate more of his ideas. “I mean this sincerely — I think they’ve done a lot of work and I appreciate their efforts. They could have gone in a different direction. They could have tried to raise taxes and fees and continued down this path that we’ve been going for the last decade or so, but they didn’t. Continue Reading →

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Scott signs immigration bill into law as Trump administration cracks down

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott, flanked by Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan and Democratic lawmakers, signed into law Tuesday a bill aimed at curbing the impacts of executive orders signed by President Donald Trump in January. The signing comes just a day after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced at the daily White House briefing a crackdown by the Trump administration on jurisdictions that do not honor requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain people they may want to take custody of. Such jurisdictions have been commonly referred to as sanctuary cities or states, but there is no legal definition of a sanctuary jurisdiction. The bill signed into law Tuesday, S.79, grants Scott as governor the sole authority to enter into agreements with the federal government to deputize local, county or state law enforcement personnel to enforce federal immigration law. Scott said the law is necessary because the president’s executive orders indicate “a shift in federal policy in the areas of immigration and border security.”

“The executive orders indicate the federal government will seek agreements and engage with the states to perform immigration enforcement functions that are the responsibility of the federal government. Continue Reading →

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House Appropriations sends state budget to the floor

MONTPELIER — The House Appropriations Committee gave unanimous approval Monday to a state budget plan that closes a $72 million projected gap between revenue and expenses without raising taxes and fees, a demand from Republican Gov. Phil Scott that has loomed over the Democratic majority for months. Overall, the Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rep. Kitty Toll, D-Danville, opted to cut general fund spending by about $67 million. Another $5 million in revenue is expected to be generated through enhanced compliance of existing taxes. The plan was approved by the committee on a 11 to 0 vote Monday afternoon, and won the support of four Republican members. The House’s 2018 fiscal year spending plan does not raise taxes or fees, as Scott demanded. Continue Reading →

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