Sarah Copeland Hanzas

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Lawmakers pitch carbon tax proposals

BARRE — A group of lawmakers plan to introduce legislation Tuesday that would tax carbon pollution and use the revenue to cut various taxes for Vermonters. Four bills were announced at news conferences Monday as part of a coordinated campaign to begin a conversation about a so-called carbon tax. Lawmakers say they plan to introduce four separate bills focused on reforming different taxes. At Capstone Community Action in Barre, Rep. Johannah Donovan, D-Burlington, said the legislation she will introduce will cut income taxes for Vermonters, small business and will double the Earned Income Tax Credit used by 43,000 low-income residents. “This bill cuts the tax rate for the bottom income bracket in half from 3.55 percent to 1.75 percent,” she said. Continue Reading →

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House member surveys federal threats to funding, policy

MONTPELIER — As the administration of President Donald Trump settles in, one Vermont lawmaker is attempting to survey the landscape and determine where the state could be harmed by changes in federal policy and funding. Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, D-Bradford, a former House majority leader, is attempting to create a rapid response plan if the president’s policies have a significant impact on Vermont. So far, however, there are still many question marks about what the Trump administration is planning. “There’s nothing rapid about it so far because right now a lot of what I’m doing is trying to get a handle on the landscape — what do we hear might be coming down from Congress, what do we hear might be coming in the form of executive orders,” she told the Vermont Press Bureau. Copeland Hanzas is keeping in touch with the state’s congressional delegation to stay abreast of what could be coming. 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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Story & Video: Lawmakers divided over budget address

MONTPELIER — Depending upon whom you ask, the proposals offered by Gov. Peter Shumlin during his final budget address are either steps to improve Medicaid and educational opportunities for children, or yet-another call for new taxes. Shumlin offered a number of ideas as he rolled out his final budget, such as new taxes for doctors and dentists to make up for the Medicaid funding shortfall, and and increased fees for mutual funds to offer savings accounts for every child born in Vermont. Sen. Majority leader Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, compared the speech to a host offering prizes on a game show. “I don’t think it should be anybody’s prerogative to stand at the podium like Bob Barker on ‘The Price is Right,’” said Benning, who took issue with the governor’s statement that last year’s rejection of an increase in the payroll tax resulted in federal matching funds being left on the table in Washington. “We have a wicked opiate problem in this state, and this legislature has a wicked addiction of its own, and that’s its enslavement to federal funding,” Benning said. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin defends late budget push

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin said Friday he is asking lawmakers to cut an additional $10 million from the budget because they have rejected his proposal to institute a payroll tax to help pay for Medicaid costs. Shumlin summoned the chairs of Senate money committees Wednesday — one day before the Senate took up the annual budget bill — to tell them they needed to cut more and tax less. The move frustrated lawmakers who are grinding toward adjournment, which is to come in mid-May. On Thursday, administration officials presented a list of $8 million in further cuts to the Senate Appropriations Committee and made clear the third-term Democrat did not favor their tax plans. “I really feel strongly that the tax packages being contemplated in this building will hurt our economy and hurt Vermonters,” Shumlin said in an interview with the Vermont Press Bureau on Friday. Continue Reading →

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