Senate money bills coming together

first_imgby Anne Galloway vtdigger.org The Senate is one day closer to finalizing the all-important money bills that are crucial to government spending ‘and adjournment. The $5 billion state budget has been finalized, and the miscellaneous tax bill is nearly complete.The Senate Finance Committee had not yet voted out the miscellaneous tax bill Tuesday evening, but earlier in the day, lawmakers had agreed to a number of crucial items in the soup-to-nuts legislation that resets tax priorities for the state each year.The panel is considering a 2 cent increase to the statewide property tax to cover a decline in the grand list value of real estate and a slight increase in school spending.Hereâ s what the Senate Finance Committee agreed to:A one-year moratorium on the cloud computing tax. Companies that use software as a service, or remotely hosted software, will get a reprieve from the 6 percent sales tax on the service until the next legislative session. In addition, businesses that paid the tax from 2006 through 2011 will receive a refund. The cost of returning money to taxpayers is roughly $1.9 million.A $5 million â generation’tax on Vermont Yankee. The state would put $2.9 million toward the Education Fund and $2.1 million in the Clean Energy Development Fund, a grant, loan and tax subsidy program for renewable energy which is nearly depleted.A $3,000 cap on the renter rebate program.Expect to see an amendment from Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Windsor, that would allow child-care providers to unionize. The senator from Bethel, believes the right to collective bargaining is fundamental, and he has put together a one-page provision that he hopes to tack onto the miscellaneous tax bill.The Senate Appropriations Committee is poised to adopt a $1.3 billion General Fund Budget and total government expenditures of $5 billion for fiscal year 2013. Last yearâ s budget was $1.233 billion in General Fund spending and $4.71 billion total. The growth rate year over year is 5.4 percent for the General Fund and 6.3 percent for the overall expenditure.Sen. Jane Kitchel. VTD/Josh LarkinSen. Jane Kitchel compared the budgeting process, especially federal cuts, to â sitting on a cactus and trying to figure out which spine is hurting you the most.âShe explained in a caucus on Tuesday that the percentage increases can be attributed to four main factors:A loss of $20.5 million in federal Medicaid matching funds, as a result of Vermontâ s strong employment and other good economic indicators.A $14 million increase in retirement costs for teachers and state employees.The 3 percent to 5 percent salary increases for state employees, or about $13.6 millionThe loss of the Tobacco Fund money, which would have contributed $6 million to the bottom line.The main takeaway, however, has to do with future General Fund surpluses. The Senate Appropriations Committee is proposing to send back half of any General Fund surplus monies to homestead property taxpayers in a refund.The House had set aside that same pot of money to rebase the Education Fund, which permanently lost $27.5 million when the Legislature reduced the General Fund transfer to the Education Fund.Kitchel said â just putting the money in the Ed Fund doesnâ t guarantee any relief to Vermont property taxpayers,’and she advocated for the refund.Several senators, including Sen. Bob Hartwell, D-Bennington, object to the refund.â This is a short-term feel good fix,’Hartwell said. â I disagree that putting more money in Education Fund wonâ t help property taxpayers.âThe question, Sen. Mark McDonald, said is which taxpayers would an increase in the General Fund transfer to the Ed Fund help. He believes that more money would go to second homeowners and businesses as a result.The Appropriations bill also includes:$300,000 in legal assistance for homeowners facing foreclosure from the Vermont Attorney Generalâ s national mortgage settlement;$1.1 million in carryforward money for the Choices for Care program, which helps elderly Vermonters stay in their homes and prevents them from going to nursing homes;Sets aside an additional $350,000 for substance abuse programs;Invests $175,000 in youth services, including the guardian ad litem program ($50,000) and Boys and Girls State ($10,000)$5.1 million for a total of $7 million to cover costs associated with cuts to federal programs;$500,000 for the working landscape bill (the House budgeted substantially more)$650,000 for an affordable mobile home owner program.The Big Bill has $68 million in budget reserves, not including $16 million in human services caseload reserve monies.The budget gap projection for fiscal year 2014 is between $5 million and $44 million. During the Great Recession, the gap was hundreds of millions of dollars each year, and most of the difference was made up by federal stimulus funds and reductions to state spending. April 24, 2012 vtdigger.orglast_img read more

Vermont college tuition increases outpace household income growth

first_imgby Alicia Freese March 25, 2013 vtdigger.org During the last five years, tuition and fee costs at public universities and colleges have risen at a more rapid pace than household income throughout New England, and in Vermont, these costs make up a larger portion of income than they do in any other New England state.A New England Board of Education (NEBHE) study, released in February, examines tuition growth at public colleges and universities across New England, and it compares that growth to changes in median household income.Monnica Chan, policy director at NEBHE and author of the study, observes, ‘ average tuition and fee rates across the region still rose substantially over the past five years at two- and four-year institutions. Median household income, however, stagnated during this time, resulting in larger shares of income being required to pay full tuition and fee rates than previous years.’For Vermont’ s in-state students, the cost of tuition and fees for one year at a four-year school represents 21 percent of the median household income. At a two-year college, these costs represent 10 percent. That’ s roughly a four percent increase since 2007.In New England, the average proportion of tuition to income is 15 percent for four-year institutions and 7 percent for two-year institutions.Since 2007, Vermont’ s public four-year institutions also saw the highest average increase in out-of-state tuition and fee rates among all New England states. The state saw an average increase of 33 percent, whereas the New England average was 27 percent.Vermont’ s in-state rate increase was more modest ‘ it went up 33 percent, while the average increase across New England was 37 percent. The average in-state tuition and fee rate for the 2012-13 school year was $11,380 in Vermont, whereas the national average was only $8,056.Over the last five years, Vermont has stayed in the middle of the pack in terms of tuition increases at its two-year institutions. Both in-state and out-of-state rates have increased by 24 percent since 2007. But during the 2012-13 school year, Vermont had the highest in-state tuition rate increase for two-year institutions and the second highest (to New Hampshire) for four-year institutions in New England.Daniel Smith, communications director for VSC, said that during the same five-year period the study looks at, ‘ our overall gift and grant aid capacity has gone up 47 percent from $26 million in 2007-2008 to $39 million in 2011-2012.’ This includes both federal financial aid and scholarships and grants provided by the colleges themselves.UVM and Vermont State Colleges (VSC) officials are quick to point out that the study does not take into account financial aid or scholarship packages, which can mitigate cost hikes for qualifying students.Net tuition at the Vermont State Colleges has grown despite this, Smith explains, because total student enrollment has risen as well, which means financial aid dollars are split among a larger number of students. Enrollment has grown by about 10 percent since 2007, according to Smith. Vermont State Colleges includes Lyndon, Castleton and Johnson state colleges, Vermont Technical College and Community College of Vermont.Smith says public higher education institutions are subject to the same trends ‘ most notably, rising health-care costs ‘ that are driving up costs ‘ in just about every institution in the country.’ The ‘ chief difference,’ Smith says, is that the state appropriations to public colleges are more meager in Vermont than they are in most other states.‘ We are providing a high quality product but we really need the state to be a partner in ensuring that it is broadly accessible to Vermont students,’ Smith said.Richard Cate, vice president for finance at UVM, described tuition rate setting as ‘ a balancing act between the increased costs of operating the institution and a market analysis in terms of price sensitivity. You’ re trying to figure out how to provide good educational value for students without increasing the price to the point it becomes unaffordable for them.’Due to its small state appropriation, UVM is ‘ extraordinarily reliant’ on tuition as a source of revenue, Cate said. According to Cate, financial aid is driving up tuition costs at UVM, and almost all of the money garnered from the 2.9 percent tuition increase forecast for next year will go towards meeting this need. ‘ The increase is going to generate almost no new net revenue.’Financial aid packages at UVM are ‘ generally quite generous,’ according to Cate, but, he added, it’ s hard to draw comparisons across institutions because schools are often loath to disclose this information. Salary increases and health-care costs are also driving up the cost of tuition, though Cate says UVM has worked hard to keep the former in check during the last several years.UVM and CCV have kept tuition hikes for in-state and out-of-state students comparatively lower than the other Vermont State Colleges ‘ since 2007, UVM’ s in-state tuition has risen 27 percent and CCV tuition increased 24 percent, whereas tuition rates at the other Vermont State Colleges have increased between 34 and 36 percent points.last_img read more

Nation’s capital to enjoy another ‘Taste of Vermont’

first_imgThe Taste of Vermont Reception will be held 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 16, in the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.  This special event is by invitation only, and the guest list will include U.S. Senators and Representatives; Federal government officials; Vermont government officials; Vermont Convention Bureau members; Washington-based specialty food buyers; travel and food reporters; and meeting planners. The Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Vermont Convention Bureau, and GBIC announced Monday that they will host the Eighth Annual Taste of Vermont Reception in Washington, DC, with honored guest Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Thursday, May 16, 2013. More than 50 Vermont businesses will be represented at the reception, and many are traveling to Washington for this special event.  Representatives of Vermont’s premier hotels, resorts and attractions, and more than 40 Vermont food and beverage makers will have the opportunity to meet with food buyers, writers, meeting planners and others ‘in an effort to bring more business to Vermont. ‘This event is a great opportunity for Vermont businesses and for the state as a whole,’said Michelle Herman, chair of the Vermont Convention Bureau’s Board of Directors.  ‘By showcasing a wide variety of what Vermont has to offer, we can get people excited about holding meetings here or buying Vermont-made products.’ ‘Our little state produces a big variety of first-rate, top-quality products,’said Leahy.  ‘The Taste of Vermont is the perfect crossroads for businesses all over the state to showcase our diverse and unique economy in our nation’s capital.  We never miss an opportunity to share Vermont’s exceptional story, and the great part about this event is that tasting is believing.’ Many national associations have headquarters in Washington, which makes the location especially beneficial to the representatives of Vermont’s hotels and resorts attending this special event.  Vermont premier hotels, resorts and attractions will network with meeting planners ‘who will learn more about why Vermont is such a popular four-season meeting destination.  The effect of meetings and conventions on the state’s economy is profound, having a positive economic impact on attractions, transportation, gifts, restaurants and other area businesses.Taste of Vermont: Food Vendors, Beverages and Hotel/Resorts                     Bold = sending representativeFood:Against the Grain                                                Bakery at Farmhouse Kitchen                                                                           Ben & Jerry’s                                                                                                                           Bien Fait Specialty CakesBlack River Produce                                                                           Bove’s                                                             Cabot Cheese                                                                                                             Castleton Crackers                                                                                                                  Champlain OrchardsComfort Cookies                                                                                   Dakin Farm                                                                                          Beverages:  Deanos Jalapenos                                                                                Caledonia SpiritsDistler’s Spicy Pretzels                                                                         Eden Ice CiderDrew’s (new)                                                                                        Green Mountain CoffeeGoodman’s American Pie                                                                    Green Mtn Distillers/vodkaGrand Isle Pasta                                                                                   The AlchemistGringo Jack’s                                                                                       Harpoon                                                                     Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps                                                                        Lawson’s Finest LiquidsKing Arthur                                                                                           Long Trail BrewingLake Champlain Chocolates                                                                  Otter CreekLaughing Moon Chocolates                                                                   Shed AleMaplebrook Farm                                                                                  Shelburne VineyardMisty Knoll Chicken                                                                              TrappsNewport Renaissance                                                                         WhistlePig RyeOlivia’s Croutons                                                                               Pete’s GreensRed Fox Apple PiesScreaming Ridge Farm                                                                        Resorts:Sunrise Orchards                                                                                Jay Peak         Vermont Bean Crafters                                                                          Sheraton         Vermont Butter & Cheese                                                                      StoweflakeVermont Cheese Council                                                                     Trapp Family Lodge   Vermont Chevon Meats .                                                                     Woodstock InnVermont Fresh NetworkVermont Fresh PastaVermont Hydroponic Produce Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’AssocVermont Moonlight CookiesVermont Nut-Free ChocolatesVermont Peanut ButterVermont Pickle Co.Vermont Salumi Vermont Smoke & CureVermont SoyVermont Specialty FoodsWagatha’sWest Meadow Farm BakeryWestminster Crackers The Taste of Vermont Reception will showcase the diversity of Vermont food and beverage products.  Everything from coffee, snacks, microbrew beers, handcrafted chocolate, and artisan cheese to ice cream, meats, and, of course, pure Vermont maple syrup will be represented at the event, truly giving attendees a real ‘Taste of Vermont.’ BURLINGTON, Vt. (MONDAY, April 2) ‘Leahy’s officelast_img read more

Vermont ACLU sues private prison company over public records

first_imgby Alicia Freese June 7, 2013 vtdigger.org The Vermont ACLU is suing the nation’s largest private prison company for allegedly ignoring public records requests about Vermont prisoners.The question at the heart of the lawsuit is whether or not the state’s public records act can be applied to a private corporation that is performing duties for a public agency. Vermont ACLU attorney Dan Barrett says he’s confident it can.It’s bringing the case against the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) on behalf of Prison Legal News (PLN), a national periodical that covers prison conditions and court cases.CCA is the largest private prison operation in the country ‘it runs 60 facilities in 20 states, overseeing a total of 90,000 beds.Vermont has contracted with CCA since 2004. Right now, roughly 500 of the state’s inmates are housed in CCA prisons. The bulk of them are in a medium security, 816-bed facility in Beattyville, Ky.; a smaller number are being held in Florence, Ariz.In the fall of 2012, Prison Legal News sent a public records request to CCA for any payment records for court cases between the CCA and Vermont prisoners, according to the complaint filed by the ACLU. When CCA didn’t respond, PLN appealed but still heard nothing.‘They completely ignored us,’Lance Weber, general counsel for the Human Rights Defense Center, which produces PLN, said.On May 31, they filed a complaint with the Vermont Superior Court.The Vermont ACLU and PLN say the documents at stake ‘settlements and judgment records ‘often provide telltale signs about prison conditions.Weber says PLN uses legal documents to show the public how much private prisons spend on lawsuits.‘We are holding the government accountable for what it’s doing with our tax money. The amounts of money that are being paid out when prisoners are killed or maimed helps to show the public what the price is of doing business with a private prison company.’Obtaining the legal records of prisoners held in-state is a straightforward matter, since the Department of Corrections falls squarely under the state’s public records law. But it’s a different story for records that involve prisoners under CCA’s supervision in Kentucky and Arizona. The Vermont ACLU and PLN are arguing that CCA has to comply with Vermont’s public records act when it is carrying out the duties of the DOC.This will be the first time a Vermont court has weighed in on the matter, according to Barrett. The case piqued the Vermont ACLU’s interest because it taps into a murky realm of the state’s public records law, one that’s becoming increasingly important to clear up, according to executive director Allen Gilbert.Gilbert noted in a news release issued Thursday that, ‘States and municipalities are contracting out more and more of their responsibilities, and it’s vital that Vermonters don’t lose the ability to see what’s being done in their names and with their tax dollars.’A ruling in PLN’s favor would pave the way for public records requests in other areas of state government where duties are outsourced to private contractors ‘Barrett pointed to the state lottery and the health insurance system as two arenas where this ability could come in handy.An ample number of this type of public records lawsuits have been litigated elsewhere in the country, according to Barrett. The outcomes of those cases have varied based on differences between states’public records laws, but Barrett says they have been ‘generally sympathetic.’He added, ‘We are very confident that there are quite a number of decisions that look a lot like ours.’It won’t be the first time CCA and PLN have faced off in court. PLN recently came out victorious in a similar public records suit against CCA in Tennessee, and it has filed another case in Texas. In fact, it won’t even be the first time that this type of case has cropped up in Vermont.In 2010, the Vermont ACLU and PLN teamed up to sue Prison Health Services, a private company that used to contract with the Department of Corrections (DOC) to provide medical services to Vermont inmates. That lawsuit came on the heels of the death of Ashley Ellis, a female inmate who died from a potassium deficiency when she wasn’t given her supplements. PLN wanted the records for lawsuits and settlements between Prison Health Services and Vermont prisoners, and the corporation eventually complied, opting to settle the lawsuit instead of letting a judge rule on the case in court.Weber says he’s ‘cautiously optimistic’about their chances this time around.CCA public affairs manager, Mike Machak, responded to a request for comment with the following statement. ‘Transparency is a critical part of the relationships we have with our government partners and the taxpayers they serve. We comply fully with all applicable open records laws and share information freely with our government partners. Like all businesses, CCA has proprietary information, some of it gained through decades of experience and innovation, and there is some of that business information we need to protect to maintain our competitive position and capabilities.‘This information helps our company deliver the superior level of service that our government partners and taxpayers have come to rely on. Similarly, our partners trust us with confidential information. We believe the interests of those partners are best served when they decide what of that information is released to the public rather than us.’Machak said he couldn’t speak more specifically to the lawsuit at this time.The complaint can be found here.last_img read more

EPA, state announce public meetings to discuss final draft plan to restore Lake Champlain

first_imgVermont Business Magazine The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Vermont are holding a series of public meetings in August to discuss new pollution reduction targets — often referred to as a TMDL — to prevent pollution from flowing into Lake Champlain and its tributaries. The meetings will be moderated by the Lake Champlain Basin Program. All interested persons are encouraged to participate.Lake Champlain Basin Phosphorus Clean Water Act TMDL Public MeetingsSt. Albans: August 26, 2015, 6:00 to 8:00 PM, Bliss Room, St. Albans Historical Society, 9 Church Street, St AlbansSouth Burlington: August 27, 2015, 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, Burlington Doubletree, 1117 Williston Road, South BurlingtonRutland: August 27, 2015, 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM, Fox Room, Rutland Free Library, 10 Court Street, RutlandThese meetings will allow the EPA to present the Lake Champlain phosphorus reduction plan called a “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL) that will place a cap on the maximum amount of phosphorous that is allowed to enter the Lake and still meet Vermont’s water quality standards. EPA anticipates releasing the TMDL by August 14, which will begin a 30-day public comment period.For information or for a copy of the TMDL following the anticipated August 14th release:EPA information on Vermont Lake Champlain Phosphorus TMDL: http://www.epa.gov/region1/eco/tmdl/lakechamplain.html(link is external)VTDEC Restoring Lake Champlain Page: www.watershedmanagement.vt.gov/erp/champlain/(link is external)EPA Region 1 Contact: Dave Deegan, EPA Region 1, (617) 918-1017Vermont Contact: Kari Dolan, VT Dept. of Environmental Conservation, (802) 490-6113Source: Department of Environmental Conservationlast_img read more

UVM again ranks among Top 10 Peace Corps volunteer-producing universities

first_imgUniversity of Vermont,Vermont Business Magazine The Peace Corps has announced that the University of Vermont ranked No. 6 among medium-sized schools on the agency’s 2016 Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities list. This is the fifth straight year that UVM has ranked among the top 10 medium-sized schools, with 31 Catamounts currently volunteering worldwide. “The Peace Corps is a unique opportunity for college graduates to put their education into practice and become agents of change in communities around the world,” Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. “Today’s graduates understand the importance of intercultural understanding and are raising their hands in record numbers to take on the challenge of international service.”UVM alumna Taylor Dorn ’14, who is teaching English to secondary school students as a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama. (Photo courtesy of the Peace Corps)Alumni from more than 3,000 colleges and universities nationwide have served in the Peace Corps since the agency’s founding in 1961, including 874 UVM alumni. Vermont is also represented on the rankings of small schools, with Middlebury College ranking No. 6 and Saint Michael’s College ranking No. 11.Vermont is the top Peace Corps volunteer-producing state in the nation on a per capita basis. Fifty-two residents of the Green Mountain State are currently serving in the Peace Corps. In 2015, the Burlington-South Burlington metro area also ranked No. 3 nationally for per-capita production of Peace Corps volunteers, with 18 area residents serving overseas.This year’s rankings follow a 40-year high in applications for the Peace Corps in 2015. This record-breaking number of applicants comes after the first full year that the agency’s historic application and recruitment reforms have been in place.Source: UVMlast_img read more

Water testing near Essex and Winooski sites test clean for PFOA

first_imgVermont Business Magazine Governor Peter Shumlin released today preliminary test results from private water supplies surrounding two former wire-coating facilities in Essex and Winooski.  All samples showed no presence of the potentially harmful chemicals PFOA and PFOS. The two sites are former locations of local wire coating and cable extrusion companies Belden Wire & Cable (Essex) and Super-Temp Wire and Cable (Winooski). An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contractor took five samples from residential wells near the former Belden Wire & Cable site in Essex, and five samples from wells owned by businesses near the former Super-Temp site in Winooski. All test results were non-detect for PFOA.The two former facilities represent two of eleven sites identified in a statewide plan announced by the Governor in March(link is external) to proactively test water in locations where there could be concern for elevated levels of PFOA. The wire coating industry, semi-conductor industry, and locations where fire-fighting foam was used repeatedly were identified as places that should be tested.The test results released today mean that water supplies sampled at four out of the eleven sites outlined in the statewide plan and tested by the EPA have now tested clean for PFOA. Testing of water supplies around Pittsford Fire Academy (Pittsford) and Phoenix Wire (South Hero) also returned results where PFOA was not detected.last_img read more

Blood drives at six VSECU branches in June and July will benefit the American Red Cross

first_imgVermont Business Magazine VSECU, a member-owned cooperative and not for profit credit union for everybody in Vermont, has launched its semi-annual blood drive series for the American Red Cross. The credit union will host six blood drives at branch locations around the state throughout June and into early July. The semi-annual blood drive series launched last year and has generated strong community support and participation. During two drives across VSECU branches in 2015, 144 units of blood were collected. Every unit has the potential to save three lives, meaning the 2015 drives collected enough blood to save as many as 432 lives. VSECU aims to exceed that total in 2016, as part of its commitment to positively impact the communities it serves. The blood drive program was initiated by Abbi Kiley, VSECU’s call center manager, while she was a member of the American Red Cross NH-VT Board of Directors. As an employee-inspired event, VSECU has seen significant participation from its employees, including many first-time donors and blood donation veterans. “I gave blood for the first time at a VSECU blood drive early last year, and have been trying to donate every two months since then. I had always wanted to give blood but never took the opportunity to do so. Now I’ve reached one gallon donated through eight donations,” said Nashoba Hidaka, a technical support specialist for VSECU. “I am happy to donate to give back to people in need. It’s nice to know I am helping someone.””I have given blood 104 times, which is 13 gallons,” added Cheryl Pickreign, Williston Branch Manager for VSECU. “It only takes about an hour from start to finish, which is such a short amount of time to help people who may need blood. We’ve all lost loved ones and I always think that my little donation may have saved a life for another family.”The blood drives will be held in American Red Cross blood mobiles at VSECU branch locations across Vermont. The blood mobiles are equipped with all of the necessary equipment and supplies for sterile blood collection. Those interested in donating blood can make reservations with the American Red Cross(link is external) or stop in at the times and locations listed below. VSECU blood drives will be held on the following dates and locations between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.:June 6: VSECU Bennington Branch at 194 North Street June 9: VSECU Rutland Branch at 72 Seward RoadJune 28: VSECU Williston Branch at 1755 Essex RoadJune 29: VSECU Berlin Branch at 365 Paine Turnpike NorthJune 30: VSECU St. Johnsbury Branch at 1036 Memorial DriveJuly 1: VSECU Brattleboro Branch at 499 Canal StreetAbout VSECUVSECU is a member-owned cooperative and not for profit credit union for everybody who lives and works in Vermont, offering a full range of affordable financial products and services to its member-owners. VSECU is committed to improving the lives of Vermonters by empowering the possibilities for greater social, environmental, and financial prosperity. For more information about VSECU, call 802/800 371-5162 or visit www.vsecu.com(link is external).MONTPELIER, VT, JUNE 2, 2016 — VSECUlast_img read more

Vermont gets $2.1 million in AmeriCorps funding

first_imgVermont Business Magazine Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) today announced that Vermont has received $2.1 million in AmeriCorps funding. The grants are from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency for volunteering and service programs. See recipient list below.Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger with AmeriCorps volunteers in April. Vermont mayors honored AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and other service members. Weinberger joined volunteers at a Burlington waterfront clean-up service event. City of Burlington photo.In a joint statement, Leahy, Sanders, and Welch said, “Since its inception, AmeriCorps has made an enormous impact on the lives of Vermonters. This year alone, more than 2000 AmeriCorps volunteers are serving in 450 locations across Vermont, supporting affordable housing, education, working on projects to improve water quality, providing services to veterans and their families, and more. We are excited to announce these three grants today, which will allow these volunteers to continue tackling some of the toughest issues facing our state with dedication and passion.”Leahy, Sanders and Welch voted in support of the highest-ever spending levels to support volunteer and service programs in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, signed into law by President Obama in December. This bill included a $39.9 million increase over the previous year to enable communities in Vermont to expand service opportunities. The delegation has since supported increases to funding for CNCS in the ongoing appropriations process that will determine spending levels for Fiscal Year 2017.“For more than 20 years, AmeriCorps members have had a positive and lasting impact on the toughest challenges facing our nation,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “Building on Vermont’s strong tradition of neighbor helping neighbor, AmeriCorps members will improve lives and strengthen communities across the state. While they serve others, AmeriCorps members will also expand opportunity for themselves – gaining skills and experience to jumpstart their careers. I salute every AmeriCorps member for his or her dedication and determination to ‘get things done’ and respond to the needs in their communities.”The federal investment includes three grants totaling $1 million, which will support 86 AmeriCorps members. AmeriCorps members will tackle some of the toughest problems in Vermont including supporting affordable housing education efforts, improving water quality, providing services to veterans and their family members, and more.CNCS will provide up to $462,029 in education scholarships for the AmeriCorps members funded by these grants to help pay for college, vocational training, or pay back student loans. The federal investment is projected to generate an additional $1.2 million in local support to increase community impact and return on federal investment.The federal investment announced today also includes more than $653,707 for the Vermont Commission on National and Community Service, the Governor-appointed state service commission. Later this summer, the Vermont Commission on National and Community Service will make additional grants to support AmeriCorps programs in the state. The current year’s AmeriCorps grant cycle was highly competitive, due to the strong demand by organizations seeking AmeriCorps resources. The 2016 competition prioritized investments in economic opportunity, education, veterans and military families, disaster services, and continued a new initiative for governors and mayors.Below is a listing of 2016 AmeriCorps competitive grants in Vermont:Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation: AmeriCorps members will implement strategies to protect and improve water quality in the Lake Champlain watershed, an important water resource that is currently impaired by excess phosphorus. ($313,704 grant; 24 AmeriCorps members) Vermont Housing and Conservation Board: AmeriCorps members will deliver affordable housing and environmental stewardship and education services through 30 nonprofits across the state. ($368,669 grant; 36 AmeriCorps members)Washington County Youth Service Bureau Boys and Girls Club: AmeriCorps members will provide services to veteran and military families and implement initiatives to prevent childhood obesity. ($325,000 grant; 26 AmeriCorps members)AmeriCorps engages more than 75,000 members in intensive service annually to serve through nonprofit, faith-based, and community organizations at 21,000 locations across the country. These members help communities tackle pressing problems while mobilizing millions of volunteers for the organizations they serve.Over the past two decades, more than 980,000 Americans have served in AmeriCorps providing more than 1.3 billion hours of service, and earning more than $3.1 billion in education scholarships. Later this year, the one millionth AmeriCorps member will take the AmeriCorps pledge, committing to ‘get things done’ for America.AmeriCorps is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages millions of Americans in service through AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund, and the Volunteer Generation Fund, and leads the President’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit www.NationalService.gov(link is external) .Source: Delegation 6.29.2016last_img read more

Scott realigns economic department to bring business and labor together

first_imgCreation of the Agency of Digital Services (Executive Order 06-17)(link is external) EXECUTIVE ORDERS(link is external) 15 January 2017 Governor Scott takes a question during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. Along with the new AEO, the Liquor, Lottery and IT departments will also see changes. VBM photo.by Timothy McQuiston Vermont Business Magazine While this is not, initially anyway, a way to save money, Governor Phil Scott’s realignment of several important departments should improve efficiency and provide better service to the people of Vermont. The governor today announced that under Executive Order 05-17(link is external), (see all links below) he will merge the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) with the Department of Labor (DOL) to create the Agency of Economic Opportunity (AEO). The new agency will carry out all ACCD functions and all DOL functions, except for VOSHA, Project WorkSAFE, and Passenger Tramway Safety, which will move from DOL to the Department of Public Safety.These proposals, issued via Executive Order on Sunday, are designed, he said, to better align state government to meet the governor’s strategic goals to strengthen the economy, make Vermont more affordable, and protect vulnerable Vermonters.The governor noted in particular that while there are jobs and there are workers, the skill sets of each are not always well matched. The new AEO should help each department do its ultimate job. He insisted that the regulatory functions of Labor will not be compromised.“Our shrinking workforce is one of the biggest obstacles to achieving a stronger economy, creating economic opportunity for all Vermonters, and generating the revenue we need to invest in services. That’s why we must concentrate our efforts on reversing this trend,” said Gov. Scott. “The changes I have proposed will create more responsive, nimble organizational structures that allow us to more directly align our economic development and workforce efforts, and provide more efficient, effective and outcome-driven service to Vermonters.”Directly connecting the needs of our employers and workforce through the Agency of Economic Opportunity – coupled with revitalized marketing efforts and community development – will allow for a better, more coordinated, and more accountable approach to advancing economic opportunities for all Vermonters. With more integrated resources and shared data, the Agency will be able to better-align training programs with job opportunities, producing a competent, competitive and highly-skilled workforce that can be directly connected with available private-sector jobs. Through a holistic view of labor, business, and economic development needs, the Agency will build data-driven systems to grow the workforce, create greater opportunity for workers already here, and fill the skills gap that employers are experiencing.Scott also said that he has not made a final determination on the status of Vermont Life Magazine. The award-winning, quarterly publication has been a standard bearer for the Vermont ethos since 1946. But like many print publications it has suffered in recent years with circulation. Its famous calendar and related gift items have also lost revenue.The governor also confirmed that Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein, appointed by Governor Shumlin, and Deputy Tourism Commissioner Steve Cook, first appointed by Governor Douglas, will continue with his administration.To align the State’s Information Technology (IT) portfolio with its operational objectives, and provide more efficient, effective service to Vermonters, Governor Scott created the Agency of Digital Services through Executive Order 06-17(link is external). This proposal dissolves the State’s current Department of Information and Innovation, creating a unified organizational structure for IT. This new structure, which allows all current IT personnel to stay in their current work locations, will address core technology and project management challenges, provide more efficient support for state employees, and deliver better customer service, while enhancing accountability.As part of the governor’s efforts to make state government more efficient and effective for Vermonters, Executive Order 07-17(link is external) will merge the Department of Liquor Control and the State Lottery Commission to create a singular Department of Liquor and Lottery. The existing entities share similar responsibilities, and there is often overlap among licensed agents who sell both product lines. Therefore, combining them under one department will help eliminate redundancies, save costs and simplify processes – maximizing revenue for the state.“By more closely tying our economic development efforts to our workforce needs, ensuring results-based accountability in our IT portfolio, and streamlining government to eliminate redundancy, we can provide better service and outcomes for Vermonters,” said Gov. Scott. “I’m proud to lay the ground work that will enable us to achieve the strategic goals I was elected to carry out. I look forward to working with the Legislature on these efforts.”In a follow up question during the press conference, a reporter also asked his reaction to Treasurer Beth Pearce’s recommendation that the state use a “per-parcel” fee to help pay for about half the $1 billion cost to cleanup Vermont’s waterways, in particular Lake Champlain.”Everything has to be on the table,” Scott said, because of the amount of money required. (Go to the 22 minute mark of the audio link).He had pledged not to raise taxes during the campaign.The EPA is pushing the state hard to start cleaning up the lake.Scott said he supported Pearce’s suggestion to use $25 million a year from current bonding authority for the first two year’s of the process.EXECUTIVE ORDERS EXECUTIVE ORDERS(link is external) Source: Governor’s office. 1.17.2017 Merger of the Department of Liquor Control and the Vermont Lottery Commission (Executive Order 07-17)(link is external) An Executive Order to merge the Department of Liquor Control with the Vermont Lottery Commission to create a unified Department of Liquor and Lottery. This executive order looks to eliminate duplicative processes, improve accountability, and realize cost savings –maximizing revenue for the State.center_img An Executive Order to create an Agency of Digital Services. The new agency will unify all aspects of the State’s IT operations into one Agency to address core technology and project management challenges, provide more efficient support for state employees and deliver better customer service, while enhancing accountability. An Executive Order to create an Agency of Economic Opportunity. This order merges the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) and the Department of Labor (DOL) to directly connect the needs of our employers and workforce. This structure allows for a better, more coordinated, and more accountable approach to advancing economic opportunities for all Vermonters. The new agency will carry out all ACCD functions and all DOL functions with exception of V.O.S.H.A., Project WorkSAFE, and Passenger Tramway Safety, which will move from DOL to the Department of Public Safety. Creation of the Agency of Economic Opportunity (Executive Order 05-17)(link is external) 15 January 2017 EXECUTIVE ORDERS(link is external) 17 January 2017last_img read more