According to a report released today by the Vermont Public Assets Institute, since the early 1990s, when the IRS started tracking migration and income, people moving to Vermont have consistently reported higher average annual incomes than the Vermont residents who were leaving.1 The most recent data for 2010 shows that trend has continued.2The numbers of people coming and going over the past 18 years have seesawed. For 10 of those years more came; for eight, more left. But since the peak of inmigration in 2001, when a little more than 17,000 people relocated to the state, the number of newcomers has been declining. And since 2005, the number of Vermont residents moving out each year has exceeded the number of new arrivals.Those coming to the state still have higher average incomes. So, even in years when out-migration has exceeded in-migration, the total personal income in the state has increased.In 2010, however, that changed. Vermont saw a net loss of income for the first time since the IRS began to publish this data. According to the latest report, 13,422 people moved into Vermont in 2010. Their total adjusted gross income was $353.9 million. The same year, 14,071 Vermonters moved away. Their income added up to a bit more: $356.3 million.Download a PDF of the report. The IRS reports the number of income tax returns filed each year and the number of exemptions, including dependents, that are taken on those returns. The number of exemptions is considered to be a close approximation of the number of people who are moving into or out of Vermont. So ‘exemption’ means ‘person’ in this report. There may be additional people moving into or out of Vermont who have not filed an income tax return or who have not been claimed as an exemption on a filed return. [↩] The numbers presented in this report involve the change from one year to the next. The data labels reflect the most recent year of the two (e.g., data labeled ‘2010’ refers to the change from 2009 to 2010). [↩]Public Assets Institute, Jack Hoffman, January 31, 2012
The Vermont Department of Taxes has announced the creation of the Tax Technical Working Group. Comprised of 13 tax professionals, the Tax Technical Working Group will provide a regular forum for communication and collaboration between Vermontâ s Commissioner of Taxes and representatives of the tax professional community.â As Tax Commissioner, I am committed to improving taxpayer engagement and communication,’said Tax Commissioner Mary Peterson. â Tax professionals represent key strategic partners in this effort.âMembers of the Tax Technical Working Group will keep the Commissioner apprised of developments and concerns within the tax professional community on matters of tax administration, policy, and outreach. Beyond relaying the concerns of taxpayers and the tax professional community, working group members may be asked to participate in periodic activities and projects to enhance the Departmentâ s administration of taxes and general operations.The Tax Technical Working Group is not the only new effort to connect the Department of Taxes with taxpayers and its key strategic partners. The newly formed Vermont Tax Advisory Board and new Division of Policy, Outreach, and Legislative Affairs represent complementary initiatives designed to strengthen the Departmentâ s communication and collaboration.â Overall, our new outreach initiatives are designed to provide timely information and education, and great customer service in an increasingly complex world,’said Peterson. â I am grateful that so many Vermonters continue to be willing to step up to volunteer their time and talents.âA complete list of Tax Technical Working Group members is below:Joseph Bilodeau, CPA, President of Bilodeau, Wells & Co.Patti Bisson, Compucount Inc., Chair of the Government Relations Committee of the Vermont Chapter of the National Association of Tax ProfessionalsRay Cota, CPA, President of the Vermont Society of CPAsMichelle Eid, CPA, Hall & Holden, PCRobert Holden, CPA, Hall & Holden PCDonald Hunt, Enrolled Agent, Vice President of Pat Hunt Inc.Lauren Jarvi, Enrolled AgentKim Loewer, Enrolled Agent, Managing Partner of Loewer and Associates; President and Founder of the Vermont Chapter of the National Association of Tax ProfessionalsDonald Murray, CPA, Fothergill, Segale, & Valley CPAsRussell North, CPA, Wilder Business ServicesClaude Phipps, AARP Tax-AideCarol Tremble, CPARick Wolfish, CPA, Gallagher, Flynn & CompanyVermont Tax Advisory Board The purpose of the Vermont Tax Advisory Board (VTAB) is threefold: Provide a public forum for communication between Vermontâ s Commissioner of Taxes and representatives of the public interested in Vermontâ s tax administration and policy, and; Provide ideas, input and perspective to the Commissioner, assisting her in developing tax policy and identifying improvements in the administration of taxes, and; Provide constructive observations regarding current or proposed policies. â The tax law is becoming more complex, reflecting our world,’said Tax Commissioner Mary Peterson. â Simultaneously, customer service expectations are rising. Open and transparent collaboration is the key strategy to help government agencies, businesses, and individuals work together in a positive manner. As Commissioner of Taxes, I am convening the Vermont Tax Advisory Board to foster this type of collaboration.âOther taxing jurisdictions, including the IRS, convene an advisory body comprised of some combination of tax professionals, business stakeholders, activists, scholars, and citizens to provide non-binding public input to management on important tax administration and policy matters. This type of board is considered a best practice in promoting collaboration and transparency. â I am pleased that Commissioner Peterson is working to enhance relationships with the Department’s key stakeholders, – the people, businesses, property owners, cities and towns, and non-profits that make Vermont great,’said Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding. â The Vermont Tax Advisory Board represents the type of innovation and transparency that is important to our state and Governor Shumlin.’ A complete list of VTAB members is below:Jerry Bowin, CPA, McSoley, McCoy & Co; Chairman of the Vermont Society of CPAâ s Tax Committee Laird Cameron Bradley, Realtor; former Chairman of the Board for the Vermont Association of Realtors; Williamson Group Sotheby’s of WoodstockAndrew Brewer, Owner, Onion River SportsJody Fried, Executive Director, Catamount Arts Kathleen C. Hoyt, former Secretary of Administration and Chief of Staff for Governor Howard Dean and Chief of Staff for Governor Madeleine KuninSharon Lockwood, Site Spending Manager, IBMJim Loewer, Enrolled Agent, Managing Partner of Loewer and Associates; President and Founder of the Vermont Chapter of the National Association of Tax ProfessionalsKathryn H. Michaelis, Attorney, Rath, Young, and Pignatelli of Concord, NH Janet Spitler, Chief Financial Officer, Merchants BankPatrick Walsh, Assistant Professor of Economics, St. Michaelâ s College Vermont Department of Taxes 5.31.2012
Trumbull-Nelson Construction of Hanover, NH, and Montpelier, VT was recently awarded the Essex Junction Wastewater Treatment Facility Refurbishment Project contract for $11.8 million. The estimated year-long upgrade is set to begin immediately. Trumbull-Nelson will be collaborating with the Project’s designer, Aldrich + Elliott, PC, Water Resource Engineers of Essex Junction to oversee the project’s successful completion. Improvements to the Essex Junction Wastewater Treatment Facility will enable the plant to operate more effectively and to improve compliance with its State operating permit. Work will include the upgrade of primary and secondary clarifiers and aeration tanks, and provide new tertiary filters, sludge dewatering, chemical feed, refurbishment of the two existing digesters, and new grit collector system. Additionally, the scope includes new pumps, SCADA System work, associated mechanical and electrical requirements, and a geothermal well component. Representing Trumbull-Nelson on-site will be Superintendent Jon McKeon and Project Manager Anthony Instasi. Trumbull-Nelson worked with Aldrich + Elliott, P.C. on the Quechee Wastewater Treatment Facility Upgrade, completed in 2011. Local subcontractors include Omega Electric of Williston and Thomas Mechanical Inc. of South Burlington. Trumbull-Nelson currently has similar utility projects underway in Lyndon and Vergennes.Source: July 24, 2012. Hanover, NH, Trumbull-Nelson Construction
On the opening day of the 2013-2014 biennium Wednesday, Representative Shap Smith, D-Morrisville, was unanimously re-elected to his third term as Speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives. Upon being sworn in, Speaker Smith presented his goals for the upcoming session and announced assignments to the House Standing Committees. The Speaker identified significant challenges facing the state in education, health care reform, clean energy, and development of infrastructure. Photos of opening day of the Legislature by vtdigger.org APPROPRIATIONS The Text of Speaker Smiths Acceptance Speech: Four years ago, this body first elected me to serve as Speaker of the House. I am humbled now, as I was then, by the faith that you have placed in me to serve as your Speaker. I hope to honor that faith over the coming two years as we work together to make Vermont a better place.In the years since I was first elected Speaker, our state and country has experienced a grave economic downturn and politics have become increasingly polarized on the national level. The political culture in the nations capital has left many discouraged and, quite frankly, disgusted. As the country faces monumental challenges — huge future fiscal imbalances, crumbling infrastructure and an education system that is not preparing our children for citizenry or the work force, many openly wonder whether our leaders and systems are capable of putting aside their differences, rolling up their sleeves and laying a foundation for a strong future. I believe that we can set a better example in Vermont. In the past four years, in the wake of great economic and political stress and in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, Vermonters have united both within this body and across the state to face our challenges, see within them possibility, and chart a course for a better future.So, what are our challenges, as we look out over the next two years? And where do we see possibility? Vermonts education system is a national leader. A high percentage of our students graduate from high school. A significant number of our adult citizens have college degrees, more, in fact, than most other states. Our test scores are among the best in the country. Yet, too few of our high school students seek a college degree. Many employers tell us how challenging it is to find qualified workers to fill their job vacancies. Most alarming, is that educational attainment is still lagging behind for those on the lower end of the economic ladder. We have, through many policies we have adopted in this legislature, laid a strong foundation. We commit more resources than almost any other state in the country to our K-12 education system and our scores are among the best. But our students should, and must be the best prepared in the country. That is the goal that we must hold. Whether graduating from high school, from a college or university, or continuing education after college, we need to ensure that our students have the skills necessary to succeed once they leave school. And we need to work together to find innovative ways to reduce the crushing financial burden that many now experience when they complete their college education. Our Committees on Education and Commerce and Economic Development will work together to ensure that we are providing the legislation necessary to meet these goals over the next two years.For too long the cost of health care in Vermont, as in the rest of the country, has been rising at an unsustainable rate, straining Vermonters finances and making access to health care less attainable. In Vermont, we have recognized this challenge. Vermont is in the midst of transforming its health care system, and by health care system, I mean the whole system, both physical and mental. We may live in the healthiest state in the nation, but we live in a nation that spends more on health care than any other country, while our life expectancy, infant mortality, and percentage of Americans suffering from heart disease and obesity rank worse than many other developed nations-that is unacceptable. We are on the path to an affordable, universal health care system in Vermont, but for the sake of our country we cannot get there fast enough. There is no doubt that the transition to a new system is going to be difficult. There already have been, and there will be bumps in the road. But we understand the importance of moving forward and it is incumbent on us to keep the pressure on reducing costs and push forward to make sure everyone has access to affordable health care.While we have passed energy bills that pave the way for a cleaner environment, and a reduced dependency on foreign oil, we have increasingly been witness to dramatic weather events. The drought that engulfed so much of the country last summer, and the second hurricane to ravage the eastern seaboard in as many years are examples of how devastating natural disasters are likely to be the norm in the future.That is why we must adapt and act swiftly to address the threat of global climate change. Our actions must include efforts to reduce future impacts to our climate, but must also recognize that our climate has been altered and it is likely we cannot do anything about it. And we must acknowledge that those changes will have impacts on Vermonters. During the coming session, the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy will work with the Committee on Commerce and Economic Development to take testimony from the businesses and people of the state to learn the details of the effects of climate change, to learn what measures are being taken to adapt to this change and how we can lead the charge to prevent future degradation of our environment by moving toward reducing and eliminating carbon-dependent energy use.I know that some of us will say it was kind of cold last nightâ ¦it was cold last week. But all you have to do is talk to ski resorts and stores that work in the snow sports industry to learn that there are real economic impacts of climate change.Like the rest of the country, Vermonts current infrastructure is not sufficient for a strong economic future. We have taken steps to address this challenge, using ARRA monies to improve our roads and bridges, build out our broadband network and modernize our electrical grid.While our commitment to make long-term investments in the states physical infrastructure and human capital has been a priority, our work is not finished. We must continue to invest in transportation infrastructure and broadband, this will make us most competitive economically and will help to address the problem of demographic decline. We have to address the long term challenges that face our Transportation fund. We must also work to ensure that one of our states most precious resources, our own great Lake Champlain is restored to its natural beauty.These are not our only challenges. We face an epidemic of opiate abuse and the specter of a similar epidemic of methamphetamines. Our benefit structures can at times discourage Vermonters from economic advancement. With all our good intentions, we have put together a structure that helps people, but sometimes hinders them-we need to fix this. The cost of housing is an issue. Our wages are not growing fast enough.I believe that, unlike Washington, we are up to facing these challenges. Why? We are a small state with closely knit communities. I, like you, visit with my neighbors at corner stores, coffee shops and community schools, discussing the pros and cons of what we are doing in Vermont and here in Montpelier. The intimacy of our democracy protects us from the forces that rend our nations political fabric. It continues to be the source of our strength as body and as a state. As we engage each other, we realize that in spite of our differences, we have, at our very core, the same goal – a commitment to each other and a commitment to make the world a better place for all Vermonters. In the end, I believe we, as all Vermonters, are humble enough to admit our challenges, thoughtful enough to consider all possible solutions, responsible enough to work with those with whom we disagree, and brave enough to chart new courses where necessary.Humility, thoughtfulness, responsibility, and bravery: Americas and Vermonts past success has been possible because its people practiced these principles. Our greatest ideals and ideas flowed from these foundations.Let us today embrace these principles as we begin our work to build a better Vermont. Let us be servants to Vermonts future and to its very special people. Let us get to work. Thank you.Committee Assignments: AGRICULTUREPartridge, Chair of WindhamLawrence, Vice-Chair of LyndonStevens ® of ShorehamBartholomew of HartlandConnor of FairfieldMartin of SpringfieldMichelsen of HardwickTaylor of Barre CityToleno of BrattleboroSmith of New HavenZagar of Barnard GENERAL, HOUSING & MILITARY AFFAIRS Heath, Chair of WestfordJohnson, Vice-Chair of South HeroHelm ® of CastletonFagan of Rutland CityKeenan of St. Albans CityManwaring of WilmingtonMiller of ShaftsburyOBrien of RichmondPearce of RichfordToll of DanvilleWinters of Williamstown Botzow, Chair of PownalMarcotte, Vice-Chair of CoventryKitzmiller ® of MontpelierBouchard of ColchesterCarr of BrandonCross of WinooskiDickinson of St. Albans TownKupersmith of South BurlingtonRalston of MiddleburyScheuermann of StoweYoung of Glover Pugh, Chair of South BurlingtonHaas, Vice-Chair of RochesterDonahue ® of NorthfieldBatchelor of DerbyBurditt of West RutlandFrank of UnderhillFrench of RandolphKrowinski of BurlingtonMcFaun of Barre TownMrowicki of PutneyTrieber of Rockingham HUMAN SERVICES Head, Chair of South BurlingtonMoran, Vice-Chair of WardsboroSavage ® of SwantonOSullivan of BurlingtonStevens of WaterburyVowinkel of HartfordWeed of Enosburgh Emmons, Chair of SpringfieldMyers, Vice-Chair of EssexLenes ® of ShelburneBrowning of ArlingtonHatch Davis of WashingtonHooper of MontpelierLarocque of BarnetMacaig of WillistonShaw of PittsfordShaw of DerbySouth of St. Johnsbury EDUCATION Highlighting the strengths of Vermonts education system, the Speaker charged the House Committees on Education and Commerce and Economic Development to work together to ensure the State continues to build upon that foundation. (See all committee assignments below).Our students should, and must be the best prepared in the country. That is the goal that we must hold. Whether graduating from high school, from a college or university, or continuing education after college, we need to ensure that our students have the skills necessary to succeed once they leave school.Speaker Smith also highlighted the work necessary in the coming years to address the problem of climate change. Speaker Smith stated that the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy will work with the Committee on Commerce and Economic Development to take testimony to learn the details of the effects of climate change on businesses and Vermonters, with the goal of moving toward reducing and eliminating carbon-dependent energy use.In concluding, the Speaker stressed the importance of a cohesive legislative body and the benefits that working together will have for the good of Vermonters.The intimacy of our democracy protects us from the forces that rend the nations political fabric. It continues to be the source of our strength as body and as a state, said Speaker Smith. As we engage each other, we realize that in spite of our differences, we have, at our very core, the same goal a commitment to each other and a commitment to make the world a better place for all Vermonters. WAYS & MEANS Deen, Chair of WestminsterMcCullough, Vice-Chair of WillistonBeyor ® of HighgateJewett of RiptonKrebs of South HeroHuntley of CavendishQuimby of ConcordTerenzini of Rutland TownWebb of Shelburne HEALTH CARE ### COMMERCE & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT JUDICIARY Donovan, Chair of BurlingtonPeltz, Vice-Chair of WoodburyLewis ® of BerlinBuxton of TunbridgeCampion of BenningtonChristie of HartfordCupoli of Rutland CityJuskiewicz of CambridgeRachelson of BurlingtonStuart of BrattleboroTurner of Milton Ancel, Chair of CalaisBranagan, Vice-Chair of GeorgiaSharpe ® of BristolClarkson of WoodstockCondon of ColchesterGreshin of WarrenJohnson of CanaanKomline of Dorset Masland of ThetfordRam of BurlingtonWilson of Manchester CORRECTIONS & INSTITUTIONS Klein, Chair of East MontpelierCheney, Vice-Chair of NorwichCanfield ® of Fair HavenEllis of WaterburyFeltus of LyndonHebert of VernonMalcolm of PawletMcCormack of BurlingtonJerman of EssexNuovo of MiddleburyYantachka of Charlotte GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS FISH, WILDLIFE & WATER RESOURCES TRANSPORTATION NATURAL RESOURCES & ENERGY Sweaney, Chair of WindsorEvans, Vice-Chair of EssexDevereux ® of Mount HollyCole of BurlingtonConsejo of SheldonHigley of LowellHubert of MiltonMartin of WolcottMook of BenningtonTownsend of RandolphTownsend of South Burlington Brennan, Chair of ColchesterPotter, Vice-Chair of ClarendonCorcoran ® of BenningtonBissonnette of Winooski Burke of BrattleboroGallivan of ChittendenKilmartin of Newport CityLanpher of VergennesMcCarthy of St. Albans CityRussell of Rutland CityWright of Burlington Fisher, Chair of LincolnCopeland-Hanzas, Vice-Chair of BradfordPoirier ® of Barre CityDakin of ChesterGage of Rutland CityMitchell of FairfaxMorrissey of BenningtonPearson of BurlingtonSpengler of ColchesterTill of JerichoWoodward of Johnson Lippert, Chair of HinesburgGrad, Vice-Chair of MoretownKoch ® of Barre TownConquest of NewburyDonaghy of PoultneyFay of St. JohnsburyGoodwin of WestonMarek of NewfaneStrong of AlbanyWaite-Simpson of EssexWizowaty of Burlington
by Alicia Freese February 28, 2013 vtdigger.org As the national debate about charter schools rages, a variant of that discussion has unfolded in the Vermont Legislature. The movement underfoot ‘ set in motion by Senate Bill 91’ would attach more strings to the public funding paid to the independent schools.Proponents say the bill is about leveling the playing field for public schools and is not intended as an anti-independent school piece of legislation. But opponents say it fundamentally misunderstands how independent schools operate, and it shackles them with mandates that could spell their doom.View of a school bus through a rainy window.School choice policy in Vermont allows public funding to follow some students ‘ many of whom hail from towns without a public school option ‘ from the sending town to the receiving school. Under this setup, independent schools often receive, to varying degrees, public dollars for a portion of their student body.S.91 was introduced by three members of the Senate Education Committee ‘ Sens. Richard McCormack, Don Collins and David Zuckerman ‘ and Sen. Richard Sears, D-Bennington. It lays out five major mandates for independent schools:‘¢ Adhere to a ‘ blind admissions’ policy. This means all publicly funded students would be accepted on a space-available basis.‘¢ Provide free and reduced lunch to students who qualify under USDA guidelines.‘¢ Subject students to the same testing regimen that public students take part in.‘¢ Require teachers to be licensed by the state.‘¢ Obtain certification in four different categories of special education. There a slightly over a dozen special education categories designated by the Agency of Education.Of the 125 independent schools across the state, the bill would impact about 15, since it applies only to schools where at least a third of the student body consists of publicly funded students. Some of these schools already comply with some of S.91’ s requirements.Declining enrollment ‘ a statewide trend ‘ has led to situations where school districts, seeking to boost enrollment, are competing for tuition dollars with nearby independent schools.‘ If this were 30 years ago and schools were bursting at the seams from too many kids, it would be great if a couple of kids went off to independent schools,’ said McCormack, who chairs the Senate Education Committee.Sen. Dick McCormack. File photo by Alan PanebakerThe scramble for students has led to calls for stricter state regulation of independent schools.Proponents of the bill ‘ the Vermont National Education Association (NEA) and the Vermont School Board Association number among them ‘ say independent schools have an unfair advantage when vying for students since they aren’ t saddled with the same requirements ‘ like providing the entire array of special education services ‘ as public schools.Tom Honigford, who serves on the South Royalton School Board, said independent schools ‘ don’ t play by the same set of rules. They can pick and choose which students they want and which services they want to offer. They aren’ t encumbered by the same rules we are.’Honigford is a former teacher at The Sharon Academy, an independent school in Sharon, which borders South Royalton.The bill is lurching through the legislative process. Senators on the Education Committee say they’ ve received a deluge of mail from people who object to it, and the committee has heard testimony from two headmasters and several parents from schools that stand to be affected.‘ The opponents have done a masterful job of marshaling their forces,’ McCormack observed.McCormack, who is a sponsor of the bill, acknowledged that it’ s riddled with ‘ poison pills’ ‘ certain provisions that spur a toxic backlash ‘ which, he added, the committee plans to address.But the opponents who gave testimony took issue with the very underpinnings of the bill ‘ objecting both to the intent of the bill, which they say would squash innovation at their independent schools, and the fact that the dictates come unaccompanied by any offer of state funding.The executive director of the Vermont Independent Schools Association, Mill Moore, said, ‘ There are philosophical objection here as far as state intrusion into places that it has never gone before and there are practical issues such as if you’ re going to impose requirements on school meals and teacher licensure, these are all unfunded mandates. Some of these small schools are really operating very close to the edge financially and if you put a major financial burden on them, they just couldn’ t possibly comply. That would mean they would have to give up taking publically tuitioned students and in some cases that’ s virtually their entire enrollment, so that would simply put them out of business.’Jennifer Sterling, a parent at Riverside School in Lyndonville ‘ one of the schools slated to see changes under S.91 ‘ told the Senate Education Committee that she moved to Vermont from Florida so that her children could attend Riverside.‘ We realized that we were never going to have enough money to live in an area where we could send our kids to public school that would meet our needs, and we were never going to have enough money to pay for private school for two children,’ she said.Sterling said she was drawn to Riverside because it offers an education tailored to the needs of her children at an affordable price. Asking independent schools to adhere to a ‘ blind admissions’ policy would do away with that specificity, Sterling said.If the bill is an ‘ effort to make all schools accommodate all children, then you’ re making everything bland. You’ re getting rid of all of the seasoning and flavor,’ she said, adding that the bill could lead to prohibitive tuition costs for her and her husband. ‘ If it came down to price ‘¦ then as a teacher and a nurse, we are out-priced.’Debate, which has taken place throughout the week, has become inverted at times, with headmasters calling on legislators to lessen the regulation for public schools rather than intensifying it for independent schools.‘ Why not release the public teachers from some of the things that prohibit them from doing what we do?’ asked Julie Hansen, head of school at the Thaddeus Stevens School in Lyndon.Independent school headmasters took pains to combat the perception that they ‘ cherry-pick’ the most promising kids from surrounding districts.Joel Cook, executive director of the Vermont NEA, said independent schools’ admissions policies allow for de facto discrimination, which creates a liability issue for the state when public dollars are at play. ‘ I’ m not sure what the argument is for an independent school to discriminate against citizens ‘¦ [The bill] simply says, like any other institution that receives public funds, we don’ t sanction discrimination.’Opponents also told lawmakers S.91 would stifle the socioeconomic diversity they currently enjoy at their schools by forcing them to increase tuition.Michael Livingston, head of school at The Sharon Academy, told the committee, ‘ It is going to very adversely impact our ability to run our school. We would have to charge additional to our families and frankly we’ d drive away the low-income families who create socioeconomic diversity.’The Sharon Academy ‘ with 85 percent of its student body publically funded ‘ has been at the fore of the debate.Zuckerman explained that the bill seeks to appease taxpayers who want to ‘ make sure their dollars are spent as effectively and transparently as possible.’ But, he added, ‘ sometimes what that leads to, for publicly elected officials, is reacting to those pressures with more and more rules about how that money is spent, which then leads to some of these shackles and requirement for testing, etc., etc.’A similar but more expansive version of this legislation was introduced in the Senate two years ago but did not gain traction.Disclaimer: VTDigger reporter Alicia Freese graduated from The Sharon Academy in 2006, where Michael Livingston currently serves as head of school and Tom Honigford formerly taught. Freese’ s partner, Charles Enscoe, works for the Vermont School Board Association, Vermont Superintendents’ Association and the Vermont Principals’ Association.
by Anne Galloway May 2, 2013 vtdigger.org The Vermont Senate has approved a bill that will raise $9.49 million in new taxes.The miscellaneous tax bill, H.528, passed 24-5, in a largely party line vote after four and a half hours of debate. Centrist Democrats and Republicans carried the day; four Republicans and one Democrat/Progressive voted against the bill.The legislation requires Vermonters with adjusted gross incomes of $125,000 per year or more to pay a minimum tax of 3 percent, puts a $12,000 cap on mortgage deductions, extends the sales tax to bottled water and changes the estate tax. It also puts a tax on satellite TV.Amendments that would have eliminated proposed taxes on satellite television bills and bottled water failed. A proposal to link the $12,000 cap on mortgage deductions to the prime lending rate was withdrawn. Another measure that would have changed an estate tax proposal in the bill failed.The Senate passed an amendment that extends a $75,000 tax credit to the wood products industry and approved another measure that continues to allow well-heeled Vermonters to take a $500 tax credit for investing in the Vermont Higher Education Investment Plan. The proposed $150,000 cap would have raised $500,000 in revenues for the state.The upshot? The Senate is $575,000 short of its $10 million revenue goal. Its not clear at this point how that gap will be filled.Meanwhile, a half a million dollars short or not, Gov. Peter Shumlin says the Legislature shouldnt be raising any new broad-based taxes.Gov. Peter Shumlin unveiled his budget on Jan. 24 to the General Assembly. Photo by Roger CrowleyNow is not the time to raise more taxes on hard-working Vermonters, the governor said in a statement. Lawmakers this session have now voted to raise taxes on Vermonters income, clothing, meals, vending machine purchases, water, soft drinks, candy, satellite television and cigarettes. It was hard enough to ask Vermonters to pay more at the pump to maintain our crumbling roads and bridges and safeguard $56 million in federal transportation dollars. I feel strongly that there is no need to raise these additional taxes to close a budget gap of less than 1 percent. Vermonters expect us to control spending by using existing tax dollars more efficiently. We must protect our fragile economic recovery.A philosophical debateThe debate began with a peroration by Sen. Anthony Pollina, and as if on cue, about 500 Vermont Workers Center activists, gathered on the Statehouse lawn. The drumbeats and rallying cry for a peoples budget, seeped into the Green Room as senators embarked on a debate over just how $10 million increases in the budget would be paid for.Sen. Anthony Pollina, D/P-Washington. Photo by Josh LarkinPollina, a Washington County Democrat who also ran on the Progressive ticket, appealed to his colleagues to address the issue of growing income inequality in Vermont. The top 1 percent of Vermonters, he said, have seen their incomes triple over the last 10 years, and the income of residents in the upper middle class (those who make $125,000 or more) have doubled. Meanwhile, the wages of Vermonters who make $50,000 or less have declined or stagnated.He urged senators to raise $21 million in income taxes on the states wealthiest residents in order to set aside money for anticipated federal cuts in fiscal year 2014 and to cover costs associated with proposed weatherization services and support for developmentally disabled Vermonters, among other human services needs.The people who have gained the most are going to be asked to do the least, Pollina said.Pollina said the states growing income disparity is hurting Vermonts economy, and he urged senators to support an increase in the top marginal income tax rate from 8.95 percent to 10.45 percent (which he says is a 1 percent increase in the average effective rate from 6 percent to 7 percent) and an increase in the second highest marginal income tax rate from 8.8 percent to 9.8 percent, with an average effective rate increase of 0.1 percent.When we talk about taxes and the economy we talk about job creators and how we shouldnt do anything to upset them because they are the foundation of the economy, Pollina said. The real job creators are middle class people. For businesses to grow they need customers, they need people to come in and buy their goods.Low-income workers and middle class Vermonters, Pollina said, pay more of a percentage of their income in regressive sales and gross receipts taxes than Vermonts wealthiest residents do. On average, the middle class pays 4 percent to 5 percent; higher income Vermonters pay about 2 percent.When lower and middle incomes go down further, they dont have any money to spend and theyre not generating tax revenue, the senator continued. That is one of the major reasons why the economy is so weak and why the economy is not going to get better.Ironically, it was another Democrat/Progressive, Sen. Tim Ashe, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, who rebuffed Pollinas charge that the tax bill didnt go far enough to raise money to pay for programs.We could raise an additional $21 million, but that doesnt mean we should, Ashe said.The Chittenden County senator defended the process for determining the dollar figure for the revenue bill. The $10 million sum came from a needs estimate developed by Senate Appropriations.Unless and until Senate Appropriations identifies $21 million in new appropriations needs, I would urge the body to reject the [Pollinas] amendment, Ashe said.Ashe has repeatedly said his committee worked to create a fair and equitable tax bill that raised no more and no less than was absolutely needed.Sen. Peter Galbraith said he agreed with Pollinas assessment of the states economic situation, and he suggested that the best way for Vermont to deal with inequality is to close loopholes for wealthy residents. Tax breaks and deductions are the states biggest problem, in his view. (The state gives away more than $1 billion a year in so-called tax expenditures.) This bill makes some effort toward greater fairness, Galbraith said.Pollinas amendment was rejected in a 7-22 vote.Sparks fly over estate tax changeA proposal to make the estate tax more equitable was attacked by Sen. Ann Cummings.The provisions, which are billed as revenue neutral, she said, creates a new gift tax on inheritance gifts to children that she said could make Vermont a less desirable place to retire, and lead to an exodus of wealthy people from the state.Cummings, the former chair of Senate Finance, proposed a study of the estate tax options.Sen. Ann Cummings, D-Washington. Photo by Anne GallowayIn a recess, committee members reviewed the amendment on the floor, and most were leaning toward the study when Galbraith insisted he would vote against the entire bill if the amendment was approved. Ashe acquiesced and said he would vote down the amendment; Sen. Bob Hartwell followed suit.Galbraith explained on the floor that under current law, smaller estates are hit with a 35 percent tax while large estates pay 16 percent. If we dont fix it, families who might have small businesses who die in this year will find themselves facing a tax burden in which there is no fairness, Galbraith said.Cummings amendment passed, 17-12.Sen. John Rodgers, D-Orleans, proposed a swap of the $1.3 million in satellite TV tax revenues and a lower mortgage interest cap ($10,000 instead of $12,000). The amendment failed.Sen. Richie Westman, R-Lamoille, however, scored a major victory. The former tax commissioner gave a discourse on the value of 529 plans, in Vermont known as the Vermont Higher Education Investment Plan, which are designed to encourage Vermonters to save money for their childrens post-secondary education. Senate Finance wanted to eliminate a tax credit worth $500 and generate $500,000 in revenue as a result of capping the income earnings of participants to those who make less than $150,000.The credit is vital, Westman said, to maintain the health of the fund. Without it, there is little incentive for wealthy Vermonters to invest in VHEIP. Management fees for the fund are high by regional standards.
Vermont Supreme Court Justice Beth Robinson, widely regarded for her work on LGBT civil rights, will deliver the 39th Commencement address at Vermont Law School on Saturday, May 17, President and Dean Marc Mihaly announced today. In addition to honoring Robinson, VLS will confer honorary degrees upon U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, NextGen Climate founder Tom Steyer, former VLS Dean Geoffrey Shields, and artist and writer Genie Shields.“I am pleased to announce our 2014 commencement speaker and honorary degree recipients,” Mihaly(link is external) said. “Justice Robinson is nationally recognized for her work related to civil rights and same-sex marriage. We look forward to honoring her as well as Congressman Welch for his public service, Tom Steyer for his commitment to the environment, and Geoffrey and Genie Shields for their enduring commitment to Vermont Law School. These individuals bring passion and unwavering dedication to their causes, and are an inspiration to our students and to the greater Vermont Law community.”This year’s honorees are:Justice Beth Robinson serves on the Vermont Supreme Court. She has a long career in public service(link is external), and her work on LGBT civil rights is widely recognized. She was co-counsel in the case of Baker v. State, the landmark 1999 decision that led to Vermont becoming the first state to enact a civil union law, and was a leader in the subsequent advocacy that culminated in Vermont’s legislature being the first in the country to, on its own, pass a statute allowing same-sex couples to legally marry. Robinson clerked on the D.C. Circuit, worked at the law firm of Langrock Sperry and Wool for 18 years, and served as counsel to Gov. Peter Shumlin before being appointed to the Vermont Supreme Court in November 2011. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and received her JD from the University of Chicago Law School.U.S. Rep. Peter Welch has served in the U.S. House of Representatives(link is external) since 2006, following a distinguished career as a state legislator. After graduation from College of the Holy Cross in 1969, he was selected as one of the first Robert F. Kennedy Fellows, working in Chicago to fight housing discrimination. Welch is a 1973 graduate of University of California Berkley, Boalt Hall. After graduating from law school, he settled in White River Junction and worked as a public defender before establishing a small law practice. He also served as an adjunct professor at Vermont Law School during this time. Welch serves on the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.Tom Steyer is an investor, philanthropist and advanced energy advocate. He is the founder of NextGen Climate(link is external), an organization that acts politically to avert climate disaster and preserve American prosperity. Steyer works to promote economic development and environmental protection in California, and serves on the board at Stanford University, where he founded two renewable energy research institutions. Last year, the Environmental Law Institute(link is external) presented Steyer with its Environment Achievement Award in recognition of his leadership in clean energy and climate change policy. Steyer shared the award with George Schultz, former secretary of the treasury and secretary of state, with whom he created a bipartisan coalition to defeat California’s Proposition 23, an effort by out-of-state oil companies to dismantle California’s groundbreaking clean energy law. He and his wife, Kat Taylor, joined Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates, and other high-wealth Americans in the “Giving Pledge,” a promise to donate the majority of their wealth to charitable and nonprofit activities during their lifetimes. Steyer graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Yale and received his MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.Geoffrey Shields is a former Vermont Law School dean(link is external) and longtime supporter. He became the school’s seventh dean in August 2004 after serving as a partner at the Chicago law firm of Gardner Carton & Douglas, where he was nationally recognized for his expertise in not-for-profit law, corporate law, health care law and international trade law. He received his BA in economics, magna cum laude, from Harvard College in 1967 and his JD from Yale Law School in 1972. During Shields’ tenure, VLS solidified its position as the nation’s premier environmental law program(link is external) and also expanded the school’s international focus. He helped establish the school’s Institute for Energy and the Environment(link is external), U.S.-China Partnership for Environmental Law(link is external), Distance Learning master’s programs, and Land Use Clinic. Additionally, he began two major building projects, the Center for Legal Services and the fitness center, which are now utilized and admired by students and the South Royalton community.Genie Shields is an accomplished artist and writer, and is the co-author of “Fairie-ality: The Ellwant Collection.”(link is external) She was influential in creating the Partners Group, a networking and social group for partners of VLS students. She worked closely with students, regularly attending their events and conferences, including the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, and curated many of the art displays across campus. Genie Shields continues to leave an indelible mark on the Vermont Law School community through her generosity and advocacy.The 39th Commencement ceremony at Vermont Law School will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 17, on the South Royalton Village Green. About 300 candidates will be presented for juris doctor, master of laws, and master’s degrees. In addition to Saturday’s ceremony, Tom Steyer will deliver an honorary degree lecture(link is external), titled “Climate Solutions—Building a Clean Energy Future,” at 3:30 p.m. Friday, May 16. This event is free and open to the public.For more information about commencement, visit vermontlaw.edu/commencement(link is external).Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, has the top-ranked environmental law program and one of the top-ranked clinical training programs in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. VLS offers a Juris Doctor curriculum that emphasizes public service; two Master’s Degrees (Master of Environmental Law and Policy, and Master of Energy Regulation and Law), and three post-JD degrees — LLM in American Legal Studies (for foreign-trained lawyers), LLM in Energy Law, and LLM in Environmental Law. The school features innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center, the South Royalton Legal Clinic, and the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic. For more information, visit www.vermontlaw.edu(link is external), find us on Facebook(link is external), and follow us on Twitter(link is external).SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt., April 30, 2014––VLS
by Morgan True vtdigger.org(link is external) Members of Vermont’s Health Care Is a Human Right campaign are calling on Gov. Peter Shumlin to “equitably” finance the state’s planned universal health care program. Advocates say the Shumlin administration’s single payer program should be supported by a progressive tax structure that doesn’t shift costs from large businesses to smaller ones and individuals.“Green Mountain Care should be funded by a mix of income taxes on earned and unearned income, wealth taxes and a graduated payroll tax for businesses with exemptions for the smallest of businesses,” said James Haslam, executive director of the Vermont Workers Center, at a news conference Monday.The new program should not require cost-sharing for medical services. Haslam says copays, deductibles and coinsurance should be eliminated. There should be no out-of-pocket costs when people receive care, Haslam and others said.Administration officials have hinted that their proposal for Green Mountain Care will include some elements of cost-sharing, which is likely to meet resistance from those who want health care services to be administered as a public good.Shumlin has said he will release his financing plan before the end of the month, but Monday’s news conference was in response to aspects of that proposal reported by VTDigger(link is external).VTDigger’s report cited sources with knowledge of previous versions of the proposal. The administration is still crafting the financing plan, according to one of its principal architects, Robin Lunge, director of health care reform.“We are still modeling the impacts of financing options on Vermont individuals, families and businesses and changing things about the proposal to reflect policy changes made after seeing the impacts,” Lunge said in an email.Shumlin said last week that the proposal will be released Dec. 29 or 30.The administration has declined to comment on the details reported by VTDigger, but Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding affirmed in a recent radio interview that there will likely be an employer payroll and income tax or “public premium” as part of the plan.The idea of a flat employer payroll tax — in the range of 6 to 9 percent — has raised concerns among advocates who argue that large companies, which typically pay a higher percentage of payroll toward employee health coverage, would pay less toward health care than they do now.Small businesses, which pay a tax instead of offering coverage or offer coverage that eats up a lower percentage of payroll, would be disproportionately impacted by a flat tax.Spaulding said the payroll tax would be phased in, reducing the immediate impact on small employers, but the administration has not said whether it will be a flat or graduated tax.The lack of detail on the income tax side of the equation has created anxiety among advocates that it might not tax nonwage income, such as capital gains.Haslam said he believes the details of Shumlin’s proposal will reveal it to be in line with what many advocates for universal health care in Vermont have waited to see for years.Whatever the governor proposes will be a “starting point” for advocates, Haslam said, but he urged Shumlin to give supporters of health reform something “worth fighting for.”The Healthcare Is a Human Right Campaign issued its own financing proposal for universal healthcare in 2012: http://www.workerscenter.org/sites/default/files/gmcfinancingplan-vwcproposalfinal.pdf(link is external)A summary of this proposal is available here: http://www.workerscenter.org/sites/default/files/hchr_finance_1pager.pdf(link is external)
by Erin Mansfield vtdigger.org(link is external) GlobalFoundries, the company that acquired IBM’s Essex Junction plant on July 1, said Friday it is offering retirement incentives to an undetermined number of employees across the company. The buyouts were first reported by the Albany Business Review. Company spokespeople confirmed the “voluntary separation program” as a retirement program but declined to say how many people would be leaving the company as part of the buyouts. They are part of company-wide “cost-savings measures to help us achieve a more competitive cost structure while our industry is in a downturn” according to James Keller, a spokesperson for GlobalFoundries.GlobalFoundries Vermont site manager Janette Bombardier speaks to the media on July 1, 2015, the day it took over the Essex Junction plant from IBM. VBM photos.“Each GLOBALFOUNDRIES location has a cost-savings goal and, in the US, this includes savings through voluntary attrition,” Keller said. “Employees who choose to take this program will receive incentives, but we won’t be discussing specifics of the offer externally.”“This program is part of a set of measures, so there is no target number, but rather an overall savings target for each site,” Keller said.Employees interested in accepting the buyout have a matter of weeks to decide, the company said.WCAX-TV reported Monday that the buyout offer is for at least four weeks severance pay for employees with four or fewer years of service and up to six months severance for employees with more than 15 years of service.There are 3,000 employees at the Essex Junction plant, which GlobalFoundries officially acquired July 1. As part of the takeover, it threw a big party for employees at its newly acquired plants in Essex Junction and East Fishkill.Despite the job reductions, the company says it’s still hiring. Representatives will attend a Vermont Department of Labor job fair on Sept. 15 at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center in Burlington. The company did not say how many jobs it was still recruiting for.“It’s important to note that this is a company-wide effort – not specific to Vermont – which is being driven by global market demands,” Governor Peter Shumlin said in a statement. “As a state we cannot control the global marketplace. Our focus is on helping any employees affected and doing what we can to ensure the success of the Essex facility.”Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott, a Republican who is running for governor, also responded to the news.“This is another reminder that the cost of doing business in Vermont matters — to employers and employees,” Scott said in a statement. “We must work together in order to make Vermont a more affordable place to live and do business.“The Essex Junction employees and their families have my full support, and the support of many others, during this difficult time,” he said.This year, the state of Vermont also offered retirement incentives to save money. More than 300 state workers have applied for the program.RELATED STORIES:GlobalFoundries completes acquisition of IBMIBM sells chip business, Vermont plant to GlobalFoundries
Vermont Business Magazine After historic highs and spikes and dips, weekly unemployment claims fell back to a more typical level last week. Claims also fell back below numbers from the same time last year. Claims in 2015 generally were lower than in 2014, but since the holiday season have been running well ahead until last week. For the week of January 16, 2016, there were 753 claims, 402 fewer than the previous week’s total and 41 fewer than they were a year ago. By industry, claims were down for all categories and similar to the same time last year. Construction claims (36 percent) again led all categories. Altogether 7,535 new and continuing claims were filed, a decrease of 713 from a week ago, and 866 fewer than a year ago.The Department processed 0 First Tier claims for benefits under Emergency Unemployment Compensation, 2008 (EUC08).The Unemployment Weekly Report can be found at: http://www.vtlmi.info/(link is external). Previously released Unemployment Weekly Reports and other UI reports can be found at: http://www.vtlmi.info/lmipub.htm#uc(link is external)Vermont’s unemployment rate remained at 3.7 percent in November (half a point lower than November 2014), as the labor force and total employment fell, with a small decrease in the number of unemployed. SEE STORY.NOTE: Employment (nonfarm payroll) – A count of all persons who worked full- or part-time or received pay from a nonagricultural employer for any part of the pay period which included the 12th of the month. Because this count comes from a survey of employers, persons who work for two different companies would be counted twice. Therefore, nonfarm payroll employment is really a count of the number of jobs, rather than the number of persons employed. Persons may receive pay from a job if they are temporarily absent due to illness, bad weather, vacation, or labor-management dispute. This count is based on where the jobs are located, regardless of where the workers reside, and is therefore sometimes referred to as employment “by place of work.” Nonfarm payroll employment data are collected and compiled based on the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, conducted by the Vermont Department of Labor. This count was formerly referred to as nonagricultural wage and salary employment.