Phil Scott

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Scott: Act now to save

e have an opportunity to save up to $26 million a year — up to $100 million over five years, adjusting for inflation — in our education system, without program cuts or asking teachers to pay more for benefits. But the Legislature must act now. The federal Affordable Care Act signed by President Barack Obama put high-valued health plans at risk of a Cadillac tax. The Vermont Education Health Initiative (VEHI) is transitioning to new plans, which are projected to cost substantially less than existing plans and will not be subjected to the federal penalty. That’s why I’ve put forward a proposal — developed with the Vermont School Boards Association and the Vermont Superintendents Association — that creates a statewide health benefit where the state bargains with employee unions, maximizing the savings of these new plans. Continue Reading →

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Senate advances budget and tax bills unanimously

MONTPELIER — The Senate advanced its version of the 2018 fiscal year state budget and a corresponding tax bill Wednesday on unanimous votes. The Senate’s spending plan, passed on a 30 to 0 vote, includes a $1.56 billion General Fund, which is 1.7 percent higher than the current 2017 fiscal year budget. It is slightly lower than the House-passed version, however, which grew 1.8 percent over the current year. Overall, the Senate’s total state budget including all state and federal funds totals $5.83 billion — slight more than the House’s $5.815 billion in total spending. The Senate version spends more than $13 million in ways that differ from the House proposal, which cleared the House on a 143 to 1 vote. Continue Reading →

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Scott seeks teacher health care overhaul as Dems, union balk

MONTPELIER — With the legislative session winding down, Gov. Phil Scott is pushing a proposal for a major overhaul of the way Vermont teachers negotiate their health care benefits, leaving Democrats puzzled as to why he did not present a detailed proposal sooner. Scott held a State House news conference Tuesday, surrounded by superintendents and school board members, to tout his proposal to have teachers across the state negotiate their health care benefits with his administration, rather than with local school boards. He said the state is in a unique position this year to save Vermont’s property taxpayers $26 million. That’s because the health care plans offered to teachers by the Vermont Education Health Initiative are changing as a result of the federal Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. As a result, all local school boards across the state are negotiating new health care benefits with teachers. Continue Reading →

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Finance commissioner to depart at end of fiscal year

MONTPELIER — Vermont Department of Finance and Management Commissioner Andrew Pallito is planning to leave his post at the end of the current fiscal year for a position with the Green Mountain Care Board. Rebecca Kelley, spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Phil Scott, confirmed Monday that Pallito is planning to work for the administration through the end of June before departing. “He is leaving but he is committed to seeing the budget process through. He will continue to work with us on that and will be with us through the end of the fiscal year,” Kelley said. “There should be no change in how we’re moving forward on the budget process.”

Pallito did not return phone and email messages Monday, but Susan Barrett, the board’s executive director, said Pallito has accepted a position to become the director of health system finances for the Green Mountain Care Board, the state’s health care regulatory body. Continue Reading →

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Liquor-Lottery merger shelved

MONTPELIER — The House sidelined a bill Tuesday that would have created a working group to study a merger of the Department of Liquor Control and the state’s Lottery Commission. The Democrat-led House was set to debate and vote on legislation Tuesday to create a group to study the merger sought by Republican Gov. Phil Scott. The governor signed an executive order in January to merge the two entities, but the House passed a resolution last week that nullified it. House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, said the House is also interested in a merger, but wants more details on what it would look like. The legislation up for debate Tuesday, H. 525, was a compromise, she said, that would have continued the conversation with potential action by the Legislature next year. Continue Reading →

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Scott: Nomination flawed but acceptable if confirmed

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday he will accept an appointee to the Green Mountain Care Board made by the previous governor if the Senate votes to confirm her, even as his administration continues to voice concerns about whether she should be confirmed. Robin Lunge was appointed to a six- year term on the Green Mountain Care Board, the state’s health care regulatory body, by former Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin in mid- November before he left office in early January. She began serving in an interim capacity as a board member on Nov. 28 because the Senate was not in session and could not immediately act to confirm the nomination. But as Vermont Public Radio reported Monday, the paperwork that i s typically filed when such an appointment is made could not be located when the Senate Health and Welfare Committee recently tried to act to confirm Lunge’s appointment. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers push for Liquor-Lottery merger

MONTPELIER — Two lawmakers are proposing an amendment to merge the Department of Liquor Control and the state’s Lottery Commission in January as the House prepares to debate legislation Tuesday that creates a working group to study the issue. The legislation up for debate Tuesday comes on the heels of a resolution passed by the House last week that nullified an executive order from Republican Gov. Phil Scott that would have merged the two entities beginning this week. Scott signed the executive order in January, but state law allows either the House or Senate to nix such a restructuring of the executive branch with a resolution. While the Scott administration has questioned whether that de facto veto power of the executive branch is constitutional, it has not yet moved to challenge it. On Tuesday, Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Chittenden, who was appointed to the House by Scott last week to fill a vacancy, is sponsoring an amendment along with Rep. Jim Condon, D-Colchester, to merge the Department of Liquor Control and Lottery Commission beginning Jan. Continue Reading →

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Watch: Capital Beat with Jason Gibbs and Rep. Helen Head

Rep. Helen Head, D-South Burlington, the chairwoman of the House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee, and Jason Gibbs, chief of staff for Gov. Phil Scott, discuss a proposed merger of the Department of Liquor Control and the Lottery Commission. The House voted this week to reject an executive order signed by Scott that seeks such a merger. Continue Reading →

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Gov. Scott picks Harrison for House seat

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has chosen former Vermont Retail and Grocers Association President Jim Harrison to fill the remainder of former Republican Rep. Job Tate’s term in the Vermont House. Harrison, 63, of North Chittenden, retired from VRGA at the end of 2016 after nearly 30 years leading the organization. Tate, who was serving his second term representing the Rutland-Windsor 1 House district, resigned Friday as he prepares for a lengthy overseas deployment with the Navy Seabees. Harrison said he received a call from Scott Monday evening and was told he would be appointed to replace Tate. “I am very, very honored and flattered to be appointed to fulfill Job’s House seat. Continue Reading →

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Rep. Job Tate of Mendon to resign ahead of deployment

MONTPELIER — Republican Rep. Job Tate of Mendon plans to resign his seat in the Vermont House in the near future in anticipation of being deployed with the United States Naval Construction Battalions. Tate, 34, a reservist with the Seabees, was elected to the House in 2014 and is in the first year of his second two-year term. Tate declined to discuss the terms of his pending deployment Friday to protect his fellow battalion mates but confirmed his intention to resign because of it. “As I’m preparing to leave, I think it sounds corny and cliche, but my affection for the people I represent has grown immensely. I’m really impressed with the people in my district — their resourcefulness, their sense of humor and also how frank they are and willing to demand change. Continue Reading →

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