State Government

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Scott administration to present budget rescission plan Thursday

MONTPELIER — The Scott administration will present its plan Thursday to cut $12.6 million from the state’s General Fund and $3.5 million from the Transportation Fund to balance the state budget after a revenue downgrade was issued last month. Administration officials will meet with the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee Thursday. The plan relies primarily on the expected generation of new revenue, some budget cuts and some reversions, or reallocating previously unspent funds. The administration’s budget rescission plan comes after economists for the administration and Legislature issued a revenue downgrade in July. The General Fund was downgraded by $28.8 million, including $16.3 million that is expected to be paid out in the form of corporate income tax refunds during the 2018 fiscal year. Continue Reading →

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GMCB cuts Blue Cross rate request by one-third

MONTPELIER — The Green Mountain Care Board has rejected Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont’s 12.7 percent requested rate increase, imposing a smaller increase of 9.2 percent. The board, the state’s health care regulatory body that oversees insurance rates and hospital budgets, announced the rate approval Thursday. BCBSVT requested the 12.7 percent increase, citing rising medical and pharmaceutical costs, increased utilization of medical services, an aging population and mandated changes to federal law as, the reasons behind the rate hike. After an analysis of the review, however, the board unanimously approved a lower rate increase for 2018 plans sold by BCBSVT on the state’s health insurance exchange. “As we issue our decision today, we are mindful of the uncertainties surrounding provisions of the Affordable Care Act, and the difficulties that many Vermonters —particularly those who do not qualify for premium assistance or cost-sharing reductions — face as health insurance premiums continue to rise faster than other economic indicators,” the board wrote in its order. Continue Reading →

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GMCB trims MVP rate hike request

MONTPELIER — The Green Mountain Care Board has approved a 3.5 percent rate increase for MVP Health Care plans sold on the Vermont Health Connect exchange in 2018. The Green Mountain Care Board, the state’s regulatory body that approves insurance rates and hospital budgets, announced the approved rate increase Wednesday. It is about half of the 6.7 percent rate increase originally sought by MVP, which insures about 10,000 Vermonters. “Today’s decision reflects our dual interests to approve rates as lean as possible, while ensuring that carriers remain solvent and therefore willing to continue to participate in our health insurance marketplace,” the board wrote in its order granting the increase. MVP and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, the state’s largest insurer, filed requested rate increases with the board in mid-May. Continue Reading →

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Scott forms panel on chemical oversight

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott signed an executive order Tuesday to create the Vermont Interagency Committee on Chemical Management, which will review chemical regulations and policies in Vermont. The committee created by executive order will look to ensure compliance with laws regulating chemical use in the state and try to reduce risks posed to Vermonters from the use or storage of unsafe chemicals. The committee “will incorporate the expertise of state agencies and outside experts who will participate in the citizen advisory panel,” according to Scott’s office. “The discovery of PFOA contamination of the drinking water in Bennington County was a wake-up call for Vermont,” Scott said in a statement. “I am directing this committee to find solutions that will ensure proactive coordination among the agencies charged with chemical oversight to protect Vermonters from unsafe chemicals, increase public access to information about chemicals in our communities, and help Vermont businesses comply with existing law.”

The committee will be chaired by Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore or her designee. Continue Reading →

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Police promise more visibility following spate of fatal crashes

WATERBURY — Top law enforcement officials are promising more visibility on Vermont roads after a spate of fatal crashes in recent days that have left eight people dead. Department of Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Anderson joined state, county and local law enforcement officials at a news conference Tuesday to highlight their efforts to improve highway safety throughout the state. The news conference followed a several-day period that saw three fatal crashes, including one in Bridport Monday that resulted in four fatalities. “It’s been a tragic few days on Vermont’s roadways,” Anderson said. Gov. Phil Scott also noted the uptick in fatalities in a statement. Continue Reading →

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Scott: Senate health care vote is ‘disappointing’

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday he is disappointed the U.S. Senate has voted to begin debating a repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a clearly defined path forward. Scott, in a telephone interview from Aspen, Co., where he is attending the Republican Governors Association quarterly meeting, said health care has dominated the two-day summit. “Suffice it to say, there are lot of differing opinions on what’s happening and what’s best for our individual states,” the governor said. Some states, like Vermont, have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and stand to lose significant federal funding under the plans pushed by Republicans in Congress. As a result, Scott said there is no consensus among the 33 GOP governors on whether Congress should be moving forward with efforts to repeal the ACA. Continue Reading →

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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont seeks $10.3 million from state

MONTPELIER — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont is seeking $10.3 million from the state for premiums and services it did not receive payment for as the insurer works to close out its 2016 book of business on the state’s health insurance exchange. It is the third year in a row since Vermont Health Connect launched that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and the state are undergoing a process known as reconciliation. The state paid $1.6 million to BCBS for the 2014 plan year and $3.5 million for the 2015 plan year. The reconciliation process is necessary because the state’s online insurance marketplace was not fully implemented when it launched and some technological elements did not function correctly, resulting in discrepancies within the billing and enrollment system of Vermont Health Connect. In some cases, consumers terminated their insurance plans but the change took months to take effect within the system. Continue Reading →

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Election Commission data request on hold pending lawsuit

MONTPELIER — Secretary of State Jim Condos said a request for voter information from President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is on hold while the commission deals with a federal lawsuit. Condos and other election officials around the country received an email Monday from Andrew Kossack, the designated federal officer for the commission, asking them to hold off on sending the information requested by the commission. The hold, according to the email, is due to suit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the Electronic Privacy Information Center that seeks a temporary restraining order. “Until the Judge rules on the TRO, we request that you hold on submitting any data. We will follow up with you with further instructions once the Judge issues her ruling,” Kossack wrote in the email, which Condos provided to the Vermont Press Bureau. Continue Reading →

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Scott picks Rep. Adam Greshin as Finance commissioner

MONTPELIER — Rep. Adam Greshin, an independent from Warren, has been appointed by Republican Gov. Phil Scott as commissioner of the Department of Finance and Management. The 56-year-old Greshin was first elected to the Vermont House in 2009 where he has represented the towns of Warren, Waitsfield, Fayston, Moretown and Duxbury. He replaces Andrew Pallito, who departs Friday to become the director of health system finances for the Green Mountain Care Board, the state’s health care regulatory body. “Adam is a valuable addition to our administration and with his business and legislative experience, brings a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the needs of Vermonters, as well as the critical need for fiscal responsibility, to the position,” Scott said in a statement. “His experience on House Education and Health committees also give him important insight into the state’s largest expenditures as we look to make the best use of taxpayer dollars in those areas and beyond.”

The Department of Finance and management, and the commissioner, help the governor craft the state budget and track state financial information. Continue Reading →

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Scott signs 2018 budget

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott signed the 2018 fiscal year state budget into law Wednesday, just days ahead of the new fiscal year that starts Saturday. Scott, a first-term Republican, was surrounded by members of his administration, Democratic and Republican lawmakers and advocates for various state-supported programs as he touted the budget. Lawmakers passed the budget last week in a special veto session after Scott vetoed their initial effort last month. Scott said the 2018 spending plan “represents real progress and a shift in thinking.”

“This budget, for the first time in recent memory, does not raise taxes or fees. That includes property tax rates. Continue Reading →

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