Mitzi Johnson

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Vermont businesses may see decrease in costs, lawmakers say

MONTPELIER — Legislative leaders say Vermont businesses are expected to see a $28 million decrease in expenses this year from lower workers’ compensat ion and unemployment insurance costs. Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, D-Chittenden, and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, said projections from the Vermont Department of Labor indicate businesses will see the significant decrease in their costs. The reprieve in unemployment insurance costs comes as the state recovers from the Great Recession when the number of unemployed Vermonters surged. “The really good news for business out there is that between 2016 and 2017, between workers’ comp and unemployment insurance, businesses within the state of Vermont will see a $28 million reduction in expenses, which is, I think, pretty exciting and good news for businesses,” Johnson said. The speaker said projections show a $ 1 2 . Continue Reading →

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Watch: Capital Beat with House Speaker Johnson and Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe join the show to discuss progress on crafting the state budget, disagreements with Gov. Phil Scott and legislation that will be considered in the second half of the legislative session. Capital Beat airs on Vermont PBS Plus Mondays at 8:30 p.m. Continue Reading →

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Scott stands his ground on budget

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott stood his ground Thursday, a day after House Democrats accused him of “shirking” his responsibility to lead and provide them with new ideas to help balance the state budget. Scott, a first-term Republican, said at his weekly news conference Thursday that lawmakers should complete their own budget proposal if they aren’t prepared to accept his. The governor’s proposal has seen little support in the Democratic-led Legislature. His budget plan, which was revealed in late January, called for local school districts to level-fund their budgets, which would have saved $41 million in the education fund. It also calls for teachers to pay at least 20 percent of their health care premiums, saving an estimated $15 million in the 2018 fiscal year. Continue Reading →

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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 budget plan reduces gap to $18 million

MONTPELIER — House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee say they have found ways to reduce the state’s projected budget from $72 million to about $18 million, but many tough decisions must still be made to bring the 2018 fiscal year budget into balance. Johnson, D-South Hero, and Rep. Kitty Toll, D-Danville, briefed reporters on the status of their budget work Friday as lawmakers prepared for the annual week-long Town Meeting Day break. Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s proposed budget called for increased spending in early and higher education. It called for funding the increase by moving some general fund obligations to the education fund, level-funding local school district budgets and requiring teachers to pay at least 20 percent of their health care premiums.

But the governor’s education proposals were rejected almost immediately by the Democratic-led Legislature. Toll said her committee has been “really slugging it out” during the first two months of the legislative session and has essentially shelved the governor’s entire budget proposal and is working off of the current budget to craft the 2018 fiscal year spending plan. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers seek reworked budget

MONTPELIER — Leaders of the House and Senate are delicately rejecting the governor’s budget proposal as they hunker down on crafting a spending plan of their own that is likely to include budget cuts and, perhaps, some new revenue. Gov. Phil Scott released his budget proposal last month, which addressed the state’s projected $70 million budget hole in the 2018 fiscal year by moving some general fund obligations to the education fund. The proposal relies on local school districts level-funding their 2018 fiscal year budgets to avoid a massive increase in property taxes. But lawmakers have already rejected one key portion of Scott’s proposal — moving school budget votes from Town Meeting Day to May 23. The Senate Education Committee and the full House held votes rejecting the change in the voting date. Continue Reading →

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Vermont officials push back on Trump orders with legislation

MONTPELIER — Vermont state officials flexed their muscles Thursday, unveiling proposed legislation to prevent law enforcement agencies in Vermont from cooperating with federal authorities on immigration enforcement in response to executive orders from Republican President Donald Trump. Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, appeared at a news conference Thursday with Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan and a tri-partisan group of lawmakers from both the House and Senate in an extraordinary show of cooperation. They worked collaboratively to craft legislation they say will address the federal government’s “overreach” in a series of executive orders signed by the president. Scott has emerged as one of the highest-profile Republican governors to buck Trump’s efforts to boost immigration enforcement and enhance border security. “We can’t pick and choose what pieces of the Constitution we defend and that is why we are here today,” the governor said. Continue Reading →

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House members propose paid leave, governor promises veto

MONTPELIER — House lawmakers unveiled a proposal Thursday for a state-run paid family leave program, which Gov. Phil Scott promised to veto just hours later. Reps. Matt Trieber, D-Bellows Falls, Sam Young, D-Glover, and Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, D-Bradford, said at a State House news conference Thursday they plan to file a bill that will create the pooled insurance program that provides Vermonters up to 12 weeks of paid family leave. The program, which they said will likely be administered by the Vermont Department of Labor, would be funded by a 0.93 percent payroll tax that will be split evenly between employees and employers. Employees would be able to access 100 percent of their regular pay while on approved family or medical leave under the measure. Continue Reading →

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Speaker, Pro Tem back governor’s plans to oppose Trump order

MONTPELIER — Democratic leaders in the House and Senate say they are firmly behind Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s plans to oppose a presidential executive order that seeks the help of state and local law enforcement in targeting immigrants, among other things. Scott unveiled a series of actions Monday that he is taking to protect Vermonters and immigrants in response to an executive order signed Friday by Republican President Donald Trump. Scott called the order an “overreach” because it seeks help from state and local law enforcement “to perform the functions of immigration officers in relation to the investigation, apprehension, or detention of aliens in the United States.”

In announcing the steps his administration is taking, Scott vowed to “stand up for the rights and civil liberties of all those in our state.”

On Tuesday, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, D-Chittenden, said they support Scott’s efforts. “We look forward to partnering with the governor on insuring people’s civil rights,” Johnson said. Ashe, meanwhile, said the Senate is “happy” to see Scott taking action. Continue Reading →

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