Justin Johnson

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Top Shumlin administration official heading to lobbying firm

MONTPELIER — Outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin’s top administration official is leaving state government at the end of the month to join a Montpelier-based lobbying firm. According to the administration, Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson will leave his government post on Sept. 30. He will join MMR, Inc., to head up a new division that focuses on international projects, particularly climate change initiatives, according to MMR. Johnson’s position will focus on helping governments meet their goals and obligations under the Paris climate accord that has been signed by more than 170 countries. “We are excited to help facilitate the critical conversations between business and government
that will be so important to meeting regional, national, and international climate change goals,” MMR President Andrew MacLean said in a statement. Continue Reading →

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Revenue downgrade expected Thursday

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin administration is expecting economists to issue a downgraded revenue forecast this week, continuing a trend of lackluster revenue growth in recent years. The state’s Emergency Board — comprising the governor and the heads of Legislature’s four money committees — will gather Thursday to receive a new consensus forecast. The updated revenue prediction is not expected to be good news. Administration Secretary Justin Johnson said the administration expects Tom Kavet and Jeff Carr, consulting economists for the administration and lawmakers, to predict lower revenues for the 2017 fiscal year than they first forecast in January. The revenue forecast accepted by the Emergency Board in January already included a $9.1 million downgrade for 2017. Continue Reading →

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VSEA prevails with the Vermont Labor Relations Board

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Labor Relations Board ruled in a split decision Tuesday in favor of the Vermont State Employees Association in its contract dispute with the Shumlin administration. Both parties agreed to seek a two-year labor contract to succeed the current deal that is set to expire on June 30. The two sides had difficulty agreeing to terms, however, and reached in impasse. A deal was still elusive after mediation efforts, resulting in the appointment of a mutually agreed upon fact finder who held two hearings in January. Both sides submitted their last best offers to the Vermont Labor Relations Board last month and it was tasked with choosing between them. Continue Reading →

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Work begins on potential dam purchase

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin and legislative leaders announced the formation of a working group Tuesday to explore a potential state purchase of hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers. The announcement came ahead of an afternoon hearing held by the Senate Finance and Government Operations Committees to begin gathering information on the dams, and what it will take to for the state to purchase them. TransCanada put 13 dams located on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers on the market on March 17 as part of an effort to acquire Columbia Pipeline Group, a Texas-based firm that operates a natural gas pipeline between New York and the Gulf of Mexico, for $13 billion. The sale process involves a total of 4,600 megawatts of power in TransCanada’s northeast power portfolio, including the hydroelectric plants in Vermont that total 560 megawatts, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Link. TransCanada purchased the dams in 2005 for $505 million. Continue Reading →

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State and VSEA send labor contract dispute to the Labor Relations Board

MONTPELIER — A labor contract dispute between the Vermont State Employees Association and the state is now before the Vermont Labor Relations Board, which will hold a hearing early next month on the ongoing disagreement. Both parties have agreed to seek a two-year labor contract to succeed the current deal set to expire on June 30. But coming to terms on the finer details of deal has been elusive. After reaching an impasse in negotiations, both sides agreed to mediation, but still did not find agreement. A fact finder was appointed and held two hearings in January. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin administration to revise, rebid major AHS tech projects

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin administration is planning to scuttle existing plans for major technology upgrades slated for the Agency of Human Services and begin the process anew using solutions developed in other states. Administration officials say contract negotiations for work on Integrated Eligibility and some major work on the Medicaid Managed Information System Core are being stopped and revised requests for proposals will be issued. The decision came from AHS Secretary Hal Cohen and is supported by the governor’s office and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson. “Since we released the Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS Core) and the Integrated Eligibility Solution (IE) RFP’s, the approach to these solutions has evolved significantly allowing us to be more strategic in building solutions that meet the needs of Vermonters, providers and staff,” Cohen wrote in an email to staff Wednesday afternoon announcing the decision. “This is our opportunity to reset. Continue Reading →

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Report: State contracts need more competitive bidding

tate government is one of the biggest spenders in Vermont, with public agencies shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars annually for programs and services. But the process used to contract for state services has come under scrutiny, and a report from State Auditor Doug Hoffer raises questions about whether bureaucrats are getting the best bang for taxpayers’ bucks. The rest area on Interstate North 89 in Williston has become a destination in its own right. Motorists can grab a free cup of coffee while taking care of business, and even sit down for a while to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi. Seven Days named it the best public bathroom in the state in 2014. Continue Reading →

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State revenue growth to continue, but remains volatile

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin Administration says revenue forecasts will likely remain unchanged going into the next year, while acknowledging revenue streams have grown more volatile. Administration Secretary Justin Johnson hosted an Internet forum Monday afternoon to inform the public on the pressures lawmakers will face as they craft the 2017 budget, and took testimony from the public on the effects budget cuts might have to social services. In a good news-bad news sort of statement, Johnson discussed the trend of revenues coming into state coffers. “Revenue is growing. It has been growing consistently, year over year, since the global financial crisis in 2008,” Johnson said. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin administration won’t seek more funds in budget adjustment

MONTPELIER — Shumlin administration officials say they are hoping to avoid asking lawmakers for additional funds for the 2016 fiscal year in the annual budget adjustment and will instead ask for the authority to shuffle spending within state government. Finance Commissioner Andrew Pallito, who took over the post on Nov. 1, will update the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee Friday on the administration’s budget adjustment progress and its plan to address a $35 to $40 million gap in the Medicaid program. Pallito said Thursday the administration will seek “spending authority manipulation across state government” to help close the Medicaid gap and address additional budget pressures in state government. “We’re going to zero it,” Pallito said. Continue Reading →

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Barre DCF workers will move to nearby courthouse after shooting

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin administration is planning to move Department for Children and Families workers from their location at Barre City Place to a nearby courthouse, a direct response to the August shooting death of a DCF worker. Administration Secretary Justin Johnson told reporters Friday that about 30 employees in DCF’s Economic Services Division will make the one-block move by the end of year. The employees will take over the fourth floor of the state-owned courthouse, he said. To accommodate them, the Washington County State’s Attorney’s office will move down to the courthouse’s second floor, he said. “That group of people have been fairly traumatized,” he said. Continue Reading →

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