Blog: News in Brief May 2022 – Vermont Biz

Vermont Business Magazine

Phil Scott to run for reelection

Republican Governor Phil Scott has announced he would seek reelection to a fourth term. Scott has been elected and reelected by wide margins. His handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been praised here and across the nation. Scott has also been a counter-weight to some of the bills passed by the Democratically controlled Legislature.

Scott and Auditor Doug Hoffer are the only statewide office holders seeking reelection, in the most open election season in memory. There will be no incumbents in the races for US Senate, US Representative, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, or treasurer. Many long-serving state senators, including the president pro tem, are moving on.

 

Personal income tax blows past projections by over $117 million in April

Led by the personal income tax – the state’s most important revenue source – Vermont’s revenue results for April 2022 vastly exceeded projections. Fiscal year to date, General Fund revenues were $1,784.6 million, exceeding their target by $158.4 million or 9.7%. The exceedingly high cumulative receipts performance of the Personal Income Tax and the similarly positive cumulative performance through April of revenues in the Corporate Income Tax account for almost all the positive performance of the General Fund in April and year to date.

The General Fund, Transportation Fund, and Education Fund receipts were a combined $531.4 million, or 35.0%, above upwardly revised monthly consensus expectations. Cumulative revenues stand at 6.7% above revised consensus expectations through the third quarter of the state’s fiscal year.

General Fund revenues collected for the month totaled $448.4 million, a stunning $138.7 million above the monthly consensus cash flow revenue target.

Economic vibrancy in calendar year 2021, buoyed by federal stimulus payments, led to an unprecedented spring personal and corporate income tax filing season, Clouser said.

Revenues into the Transportation Fund lagged expectations, bringing in $24.4 million in April compared to the consensus cash flow target estimate of $27.0 million. Fiscal year-to-date, the T-Fund brought in $234.0 million which was -$4.0 million or -1.7% below the consensus cash flow target.

Revenues for the month in the T-Fund were below target in all three non-fuel sources.

The Motor Vehicle Fees component was particularly off the mark for the month of April and receipts activity in the Motor Vehicle Purchase & Use Tax and in the Other Fees category were also weak in April.

The Education Fund revenues were $1.8 million, or 3.2%, above the monthly consensus cash flow target, having collected $58.6 million in April. Year to date, the Ed Fund received $566.7 million, which is 1.3% higher than the consensus cash flow target.

Monthly receipts into the Ed Fund continued the pattern of reflecting the underlying strength of household consumption activity while also benefiting from the solid recovery of the leisure and hospitality sector.

The Rooms & Meals tax, which tends to track tourism, was 20.9% ahead, while the sales tax was 3.7% above expectations.

However, Secretary of Administration Kristin Clouser said we shouldn’t expect a repeat next fiscal year. FY 2023 begins July 1.

 

House Fails to Override Governor’s Veto of Clean Heat Measure

The House has failed to override Governor Phil Scott’s veto of the “clean heat standard” bill by a single vote. The clean heat measure, H.715, was designed to reduce fossil fuel heating emissions. The override effort needed a two-thirds majority in the House with at least 100 votes to succeed. It fell one short with 99 yes votes and 51 nays.

 

Vermont’s unemployment rate decreased to 2.5 percent in April

The Vermont Department of Labor has released data on the Vermont economy for the time period covering April 2022. According to household data, the seasonally-adjusted statewide unemployment rate for April was 2.5 percent. This reflects a decrease of one-tenth of one percentage point from March. The US rate for April was 3.6 percent.

All three major metrics improved, with the Vermont Labor Force increasing by 1,312 people, the number of employed up 1,883 and the number of unemployed down 571. The unemployment rate itself was down 1.2 percent from April 2021.

Vermont has the nation’s ninth lowest rate (Nebraska and Utah 1.9 percent; New Hampshire fifth at 2.3 percent; New Mexico last at 5.3 percent)

 

Burlington Electric Department outlines 3.95 percent FY 2023 rate hike

Burlington Electric Department (BED), a not-for-profit public power utility serving the City of Burlington, is proposing a 3.95 percent electricity rate increase during fiscal year 2023 (FY23) that will appear first as a surcharge on customer bills in August 2022. The rate change will be reviewed by the Public Utility Commission (PUC). The increase is well below current inflation rates, and BED’s total rates will remain low compared to the Vermont average. BED’s financials have been bolstered by passage last fall of the $20 million Net Zero Energy Revenue Bond that has become a key source of capital funding, by strong production from BED’s McNeil Generating Station during the high energy price winter of 2021-22, and by the fact that BED’s resources are all renewable..

 

Legislators issue resounding override of pension veto

The Vermont House reaffirmed its overwhelming support of the Legislature’s pension reform package by voting to override Governor Phil Scott’s veto two days after the Senate’s own unanimous override vote. The governor had anticipated the override but vetoed the plan May 2 “on principle” because it did not include an option for new employees to select an investment-type retirement plan like a 401(k) and because it did not sufficiently address a several-billion-dollar unfunded retirement obligation. He called the bill a “Band-Aid.” Despite that, the override succeeded without a single “nay” vote.

 

Schirling to leave Public Safety to take UVM job

Governor Phil Scott today announced that Commissioner Michael Schirling will be leaving his role leading the Vermont Department of Public Safety (DPS) next month. Schirling will take a senior role at the University of Vermont, following his departure as commissioner on June 18. Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Morrison will serve as interim commissioner. Schirling was first appointed by Governor Scott as secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) in January 2017. In August of 2019, the governor named Schirling to his current role leading the Department of Public Safety.

 

Welch announce $16 million in broadband construction grants

Governor Phil Scott and Congressman Peter Welch joined the Vermont Community Broadband Board (VCBB) and community leaders to announce over $16 million in broadband construction grants that will bring fiber broadband speeds to residents of Bolton and several towns in the Northeast Kingdom (NEK). Standing in front of two bucket trucks installing fiber on a stretch of Stage Road in Bolton, leaders congratulated NEK Broadband (a Communications Union District (CUD)) and Waitsfield Champlain Valley Telecom (a small, family-owned telephone operator), on receiving the grants.

 

UVM board approves new budget

The University of Vermont Board of Trustees have approved a general fund budget of $403.9 million for fiscal year 2023, which facilitates the institution’s commitment to keeping a high-quality UVM education affordable for students and families.

Built into next year’s budget, which starts July 1, is the fact that tuition is being kept at the same level for a fourth consecutive year based on action taken by the board last October. The board’s action resulted in no tuition increase for the 2022-2023 academic year for all students regardless of their degree level or residency status. The decision will allow the Class of 2023 to complete four years of study at UVM paying the same for tuition as they did when they started. Undergraduate in-state tuition is $16,280; out-of-state is $41,280.

 

Governor signs student equity bill into law

Governor Phil Scott signed into law S.287, An act relating to improving student equity by adjusting the school funding formula and providing education quality and funding oversight. “I am signing S.287…however, I believe our work in this area has just begun.”

“Despite the promises of Act 60 and the policy changes that have been made since its implementation, deep inequity persists in our education system. Despite the best efforts and sincere intentions of policymakers, there are unequal opportunities and outcomes for students from historically marginalized backgrounds, and based on socioeconomic status, school size and region.”

 

Blue Cross of Vermont announces student loan forgiveness serviced by GradFin

At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, our mission is to help you and your family live happier, healthier lives. Your financial wellness is an important part of your overall health and well-being, so we’ve partnered with GradFin to provide comprehensive student loan services to eligible Blue Cross members, including Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness. The Blue Cross and GradFin program is unique in that its services are available to insured members and those in their household, even if the household members are not enrolled in the insurer’s medical benefits.

 

 

UVM staff unions agree to terms of first contract

The University of Vermont and the institution’s two newest employee bargaining units, represented by UVM Staff United (UVMSU), have agreed to the terms of their first contract, which will raise wages for all union members and will especially benefit the lowest paid employees.

Union members completed voting today in support of the proposed contract and the university’s Board of Trustees has unanimously expressed its support.

Under the terms of the new contract, UVM will:

Establish a new minimum wage for employees in the two bargaining units of $20 per hour, far above both state and federal minimum wage rates.

Increase the base salaries of each UVMSU employee by at least $3,500, retroactive to July 2021.

Provide two additional 3% increases to base pay of UVMSU employees in July 2022 and again in July 2023.

 

Scott and Sanders announce $4.23 million in grants for afterschool and summer programs

Governor Phil Scott and Senator Bernie Sanders, in partnership with Vermont Afterschool, have announced the recipients of the Afterschool & Summer Expanding Access Grant program for the summers of 2022 and 2023 and the 2022–2023 school year. A total of $4.23 million was awarded to 39 programs from 11 Vermont counties. Building off the successful 2021 Summer Matters grant initiative and the progress Vermont has made toward offering universal afterschool and summer programs, the Expanding Access Grants will continue to reduce gaps in Vermont’s current summer and afterschool system by addressing affordability, increasing availability, building long-lasting partnerships to promote sustainability, and piloting innovative approaches.

 

Ben & Jerry’s plans to cut dairy GHG emissions to half industry average by 2024

Ben & Jerry’s is making a bold commitment to bring greenhouse gas emissions on 15 dairy farms to half the industry average by the end of 2024. Once proven, pilot project initiatives will be expanded to farms across Ben & Jerry’s global dairy supply chain. Dairy ingredients account for more than 50% of Ben & Jerry’s total greenhouse gas emissions, so the company is focusing on dairy farms as the best opportunity to reduce its carbon footprint.

 

Vermont to receive $760K from settlement with Ford over false advertising

Attorney General TJ Donovan today announced a multistate settlement with Ford Motor Company regarding claims that Ford falsely advertised the real-world fuel economy of certain model years of C-Max hybrids and the payload capacity of certain Super Duty pick-up trucks. Attorney General Donovan, who co-led the investigation into Ford along with the attorneys general of Oregon, Texas, Illinois, Maryland, and Arizona, has alleged that Ford misrepresented the numbers to make its cars appear more fuel efficient in real-world driving conditions and tried to make its trucks seem capable of hauling more than was possible. The State of Vermont will receive over $760,202 as its share of the $19.2 million multistate settlement.

 

Vermont officials vow to protect women’s rights if Roe v. Wade overturned

Vermont elected leaders and others are weighing on a report from Politico that the US Supreme Court is poised to overturn the landmark abortion rights decision on Roe versus Wade. The leak of this report is unprecedented among Supreme Court draft decisions. According to Politico, the draft decision was written by Justice Alito and is expected to be announced in June.

 

United Way of Northwest Vermont announces $880,000 in partner funding

United Way of Northwest Vermont (UWNWVT)—an organization dedicated to improving lives in Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties—will distribute $880,000 in 2022 to 33 organizations that are meeting an array of interconnected needs in our community. The partner funding, which the United Way board of directors unanimously approved at its May meeting, will support organizations that address United Way’s key strategies: meeting basic needs (housing, food, transportation), supporting families, promoting mental health, reducing substance misuse and promoting financial stability. These strategies were determined by input from hundreds of community members.

 

Attorney General T.J. Donovan will not seek reelection

Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced his plans for the 2022 campaign cycle by issuing the following statement: “I will not seek reelection as Attorney General in 2022. I have wrestled with this decision for the past few months and it feels like the right choice. After nearly sixteen years as an elected official (19 years in public service), it is time to take a break from the political world and pursue other opportunities.”

 

Treasurer Beth Pearce will not seek re-election after six terms

Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce has announced she will not seek re-election and will be retiring in January 2023, after six terms in office. She cited recent health-related issues in making this decision. In her time as Treasurer, Pearce served as President of the National Association of State Treasurers, President of the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers, and as Chair of the Government Accounting Standards Advisory Council. She made her statement at a press conference in Montpelier on Wednesday morning.

 

Pieciak to run for state treasurer

Former Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak of Winooski has declared his candidacy for the office of Vermont Treasurer. Current Treasurer Pearce announced that she would not seek reelection because of health concerns. Pieciak has served as DFR Commissioner in both the Shumlin and Scott Administrations.

He has played a prominent role in the investigation of the EB-5 fraud centered at Jay Peak Resort and in the state’s COVID-19 response. Pieciak has been a regular participant in Governor Phil Scott’s press conferences and presented the state’s COVID-19 data modeling.

 

Kesha Ram Hinsdale ends congressional bid, to run for re-election to state Senate

Democratic State Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale has announced her plans to run for re-election to the Vermont State Senate, stepping down from her competitive place in the Congressional race and supporting Becca Balint’s bid for Congress. 

 

Tax credits combine with pandemic relief funds to support affordable Vermont apartments

The Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) Board of Commissioners announced this week that its annual award of federal housing tax credits will support the construction of 109 permanently affordable apartments in four communities across the state. The sale of this year’s tax credits to investors is expected to yield nearly $25 million in funding, which will cover an estimated 55 percent of total project development costs.

 

Eleven Vermont communities to benefit from certified local government grants

The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation announce the approval of $74,718 in federal funding to 11 historic preservation projects through the Certified Local Government (CLG) program to support community-based preservation initiatives. Among the 11 projects receiving the funding are Windsor’s National Register of Historic Places nomination of Old South Church, built in 1798 by renowned architect Asher Benjamin; Calais’s history tour of cherished local landmarks; Cambridge Village’s National Register historic district nomination; Hartford’s documentation of the history and places of performing arts; and Rockingham’s conservation of the Meeting House grave markers—some of which date from 1776.

 

Vermont joins national ‘Internet For All’ initiative

Governor Phil Scott and the US Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) have announced that Vermont has signed on to participate in the “Internet for All” initiative, which will invest $65 billion to provide affordable, reliable, high-speed internet for everyone in America by the end of the decade. 

 

Captive Insurance Deputy Commissioner Provost to retire

Deputy Commissioner of the Captive Insurance Division at the Department of Financial Regulation (DFR), David Provost, has announced his plan to retire at the end of the summer to ensure a smooth transition within the Department to new leadership. “We wish Dave all the best in his future and we thank him for his immeasurable contribution to Vermonters and businesses around the world,” said Governor Phil Scott. “We are committed to appointing a replacement that will maintain the tone and standard Dave has set in Vermont.”

 

New solar array transforms Hardwick gravel pit into renewable energy resource

Hardwick Electric Department and Encore Renewable Energy has developed a new 1.65 MWac solar array located at a former Hardwick gravel. The solar array is expected to produce enough carbon-free electricity to power approximately 340 homes annually. 100% of the renewable generation will serve homes and businesses that receive electricity from Hardwick Electric Department. 

 

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