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Minter outlines tax policy


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 →

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Zuckerman releases 2015 tax return, other Dems to follow

Sen. David Zuckerman

MONTPELIER — Sen. David Zuckerman, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, released his 2015 tax return Tuesday, showing he and his wife earned $63,977 in adjusted gross income. Zuckerman, who is engaged in a three-way primary for the state’s second-highest office, filed a joint 2015 return with his wife, Rachel Nevitt. Their returned showed an adjusted gross income of $63,977, including $33,429 in wages, $24,676 in income from their farm in Hinesburg, $7,055 in investment income and $125 in speaking fees. The couple paid $2,213 in federal income tax on their taxable income of $28,079. Their tax rate was 10.8 percent of taxable income. Continue Reading →

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House lawmakers vote to raise the smoking age

MONTPELIER — House lawmakers have given preliminary approval to a bill that would raise the smoking age from 18 to 21. The House voted Tuesday to approve a bill that gradually raises the age someone can buy, possess and use all forms of tobacco during the next three years, and would increase taxes on tobacco products to compensate for lost state revenue. “Our hope is this will help move Vermont to a culture of healthier youth, less government spending and a brighter future,” said Rep. Michael Mrowicki, D-Putney, one of 16 co-sponsors of the bill. Under the terms of the bill, the age to purchase, possess and use tobacco would rise from 18 to 19, beginning Jan. 1, 2017. Continue Reading →

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House gives preliminary approval to property tax bill

MONTPELIER — The proposed property tax bill would see an increase in residential rates and a decrease in the commercial and nonresidential rate. On Tuesday, House lawmakers gave preliminary approval to a bill that would raise the average property tax rate by 0.2 cents, and would lower the commercial and nonresidential rate by 0.5 cents. While the commercial and nonresidential rate is the same for everyone, regardless of where they are located, the residential tax rate will vary from municipality to municipality. For the second year, property taxes — which fund the vast majority of the state’s Education Fund — are based on a formula that results in what’s referred to as a “yield amount.”

The yield amount is the amount of money that would result from a tax rate of $1 for every $100 of assessed value. On Tuesday, lawmakers approved a yield amount of $9,701. Continue Reading →

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Ways and Means approves $14.1 million of new revenue in tax bill


MONTPELIER — The House tax writing committee has advanced a revenue bill that raises $14.1 in new money for the general fund and other special funds, but some lawmakers say it is just a fraction of the $48 million in new revenue the committee is expected to raise in total. The House Ways and Means Committee voted Wednesday night 7 to 4 to approve a miscellaneous tax bill — before the House Appropriations Committee has completed work on its budget. That has some members of Ways and Means complaining that budget writers have little incentive to make cuts to state spending. Rep. Janet Ancel, D-Calais, the committee’s chairwoman, said she took the unusual step of voting on a revenue package before the budget is finalized because some members of the committee will be out for an extended period. “I have two members of the committee who aren’t going to be here,” she said. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin seeks 3.1 percent boost in FY2017 budget, expansion of provider assessment

Gov. Peter Shumlin delivers the final budget address of his governorship inside the House chamber. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin is looking to address a deficit in the state’s Medicaid program by expanding a tax on health care providers in the $1.537 billion 2017 fiscal year budget proposal he revealed Thursday. Shumlin, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election, delivered the final budget proposal of his tenure to lawmakers Thursday. His proposal, outlined in his 30-minute address inside the House Chamber, would boost spending by 3.1 percent over the current fiscal year — after mid-year adjustments are put in place. Shumlin touted his budget as responsible and necessary, noting he closed a projected $68 million gap between anticipated revenues and spending without the use of one-time funding for ongoing expenses for the first time since before the Great Recession. The 3.1 percent spending increase matches projected revenues, he said. Continue Reading →

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State revenues get slight downgrade

Economists Tom Kavet and Jeff Carr deliver an updated revenue forecast to the Emergency Board. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Economists for the Shumlin administration and the Legislature have revised projected state revenues downward for the remainder of the current fiscal year and the next fiscal year for the general and education funds. The new consensus forecast was delivered to the Emergency Board Tuesday by Tom Kavet and Jeff Carr, consulting economists for the administration and lawmakers. The general fund is now expected to see $4.7 million less revenue in the current 2016 fiscal year and $9.1 million less in the 2017 fiscal year. The education fund, meanwhile, is expected to see $1 million less in the current fiscal year and $500,000 less in the 2017 fiscal year. The transportation fund is now expected to grow by $900,000 more in the current fiscal year and $1.1 million more in the 2017 fiscal year. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin won’t rule out new revenue for Medicaid

Gov. Peter Shumlin discusses the state's Medicaid program in an interview Monday, Jan. 11, 2016. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Outgoing Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin is not ruling out the possibility of raising new revenue to pay for the state’s Medicaid program when he delivers his annual budget address on Thursday. Shumlin, in an interview with the Rutland Herald and the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus Monday, promised to deliver a balanced budget for the 2017 fiscal year on Thursday. That means he must close a projected gap of $58.5 million that is largely driven by the Medicaid program. The Medicaid deficit in the upcoming fiscal year is projected to be about $53 million. That’s because the state expanded the program under the federal Affordable Care Act. Continue Reading →

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Gov council recommends steps to end poverty and homelessness

Christopher Curtis

MONTPELIER — A governor-appointed council is issuing recommendations to end homelessness and poverty in Vermont. Members of the Governor’s Council on Pathways From Poverty discussed a recent report that seeks to end the cycle of poverty in the state and match people at risk of homelessness with permanent homes. “We have got to end the ceaseless cutting of the safety net in Vermont,” said Christopher Curtis, co-chairman of the Governor’s Council on Pathways From Poverty, and an attorney for Vermont Legal Aid. “We have seen, year after year, the drip-drip cuts to essential programs and services, and those are simply poor taxes,” Curtis continued. “In a state where we routinely hear Vermonters cannot afford anymore taxes, policymakers are levying taxes on those who can least afford to pay.”

Co-chairwoman Linda Ryan discussed the proposal to levy a tax of $2 per night on hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts, which the council anticipates would raise $12 million annually. Continue Reading →

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Cadillac Tax impact less than initial estimates

Michael Costa (VPR photo)

MONTPELIER — The impact of a tax on high-end insurance plans slated to begin in 2018 is not expected to impact the state as much as initially thought, according to the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office and the Shumlin administration. The so-called Cadillac Tax, part of the federal Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, will impose a 40 percent non-deductible excise tax on health insurance plans that exceed $10,200 for an individual and $27,500 for a family beginning in 2018. The tax is indexed to inflation and will rise over time. “We have some IRS guidance, but federal regulations have not been issued. To be perfectly candid, the IRS guidance raises as many questions as it answers. Accordingly, whether and how to properly average benefit costs and adjust tax thresholds still needs additional clarification. Continue Reading →

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