Janet Ancel

Recent Posts

House Dems take off gloves in budget battle

MONTPELIER — House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and the chairs of the House money committees came out swinging Wednesday, accusing the governor of shirking his responsibility to govern by not engaging with lawmakers in the budget process after his initial proposal was rejected. Johnson, joined by Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Kitty Toll and Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Janet Ancel, excoriated Republican Gov. Phil Scott for being disengaged from the budget process and sticking to what they say is a budget plan already rejected by lawmakers and local voters. Showdowns between lawmakers and the administration are expected, but for the first time in six years, the Democratic-led Legislature must work with a Republican administration. Wednesday’s tough words from Democrats indicate a more volatile process is likely this year than in recent years when Democrats also controlled the governor’s office. Scott’s budget proposal, unveiled in late January, called for local school districts to level-fund their budgets and force teachers to pay at least 20 percent of their health care premiums. Doing so would save tens of millions of dollars in the state’s education fund. Continue Reading →

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House Ways and Means amends pot bill, backs legalization

MONTPELIER — The House Ways and Means Committee has voted to approve an amendment to a marijuana bill that would allow for the legal possession of up to 1 ounce and cultivation of up to two marijuana plants. The amendment, which materialized in the committee Thursday, passed on a 7-4 vote Friday after a few minor changes. It would fundamentally alter the bill advanced by the House Judiciary Committee last week. The Judiciary Committee’s work stripped out the Senate’s language that legalized marijuana and created a regulatory structure for its retail sale. But support for that never materialized among Judiciary Committee members, so it was amended to create a commission to study the issue. 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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Lawmakers heading in different directions on school spending thresholds

MONTPELIER — As House and Senate lawmakers continue to move in different directions in the hopes of enacting swift change regarding school district spending thresholds, revised threshold numbers create additional uncertainty. Lawmakers on either side of the General Assembly are no closer to reaching consensus on what changes, if any, should be made regarding spending thresholds that are estimated to result in more than 120 school districts facing property tax penalties. If anything, lawmakers on both sides are doubling down on their parallel, but differing, proposals. Earlier this week, House Education Committee members passed a bill that would raise each district’s threshold by 0.9 percent. On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee approved a bill that would repeal the thresholds altogether. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers strike tax deal without gov’s approval

MONTPELIER — House and Senate negotiators were nearing a deal on a $30 million revenue package early Saturday morning that will help balance the 2016 fiscal year budget and close a projected $113 million gap — but includes provisions Gov. Peter Shumlin has said he does not support. The bulk of the new revenue comes from changes to the income tax code. Both the House and Senate have agreed with the governor to raise $15 million by eliminating taxpayers’ ability to deduct their prior year local and state taxes on their state returns. But the House and Senate are also looking to raise about $10.5 million by making changes to how much taxpayers can deduct. Under the plan lawmakers were nearing agreement on, income tax deductions would be capped at two times the standard deduction — about $25,000 for a couple. Continue Reading →

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Beverage tax advances to support health care spending

MONTPELIER — The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday advanced a sweetened beverage tax and a hike in the state’s cigarette tax to cover the cost of proposed health care initiatives after weeks of wrangling. Thursday’s vote came after a number of potential revenue sources were laboriously explored. Committee Chairwoman Janet Ancel, D-Calais, and Democratic House leaders considered myriad options before piecing together a plan that raises about $18 million and could also garner enough votes. In the end, the committee found just enough votes to pass the bill out on a 6 to 5 vote. “I would like to have a stronger vote coming out of the committee than we’re going to have, but I really appreciate the work that people have done to get to where we are,” Ancel said before the vote. Continue Reading →

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