The two weeks prior to Easter/Passover weekend were intensely
busy. Days that had been spent largely in committee
(transportation, in my case) were given over to long full days on
the House Chamber floor. After passing the transportation bill, the
next big financial bills were the Ways and Means' committee's
revenue bill, and the Appropriation committee's spending bill.
The revenue package that was passed includes a number of
adjustments of existing taxes, and some new taxes. Forgiven is the
business tax that supported Catamount Health Care, which will yield
to the new Health Connect exchange plans. Adjusted taxes are income
tax brackets. The 8.8 percent bracket will disappear, and move
upwards, while higher income earners see their lowest income
bracket move up one bracket. Sales tax exemption for pre-written
software purchased "in the cloud" will disappear. Meals will
be taxed at 9.5% instead of 9%, and vending machine consumables
will also be taxed.
Cigarettes will be taxed a additional 50 cents per pack, and
non-essential "food" consumables (bottled water, candy, soda, and
nutritional supplements) will be subject to sales tax.
Clothing items above $110 in price will be subject to sales tax,
while less expensive clothing remains tax free. There are a few
other adjustments plus an exception to tax law, allowing
municipalities (like Rutland) to forgive taxes on blighted
properties for up to five years to encourage neighborhood
Though I see this as a fairly balanced package, I voted no for
this year, recognizing the still-present pinch of recession in the
The spending bill adheres to the Governor's proposal in many
areas, and represents a
4.7 percent increase in spending. The challenging discussions were
around capping the Reach-Up program, and the less-affordable move
from Catamount Health Care to the new exchange.
The recipients of Reach-Up benefits will have incentives to find
employment, while some safety net measures remain for mothers with
young children. The health care issue is tough, as Vermont had
successfully provided a generous affordability to low income
workers, while the ACA (the federal Affordable Care Act) now will
offer less generous buy-in. Though the intent is to provide a high
affordability program, we will fall back at this time, and need to
stay within the promised subsidies to create a sustainable program
for the future and through this transition to provide universal
Along with the work on these bill, last week brought the capital
bill. This bill outlines expenditures on state owned buildings,
school grants, college structures, and clean water projects.
The most significant part of the bill is the spending to build out
a new mental health care delivery system. This will include an
updated but smaller facility than the aged one destroyed by Irene,
and satellite facilities in four other areas including Rutland.
Having accessible care with available beds in our area will be a
great improvement for the extended region.
Somewhere in there, we passed a strong Shorelands bill that sets
new standards to protect our lakes and riverbanks. By restricting
new clearing and impermeable surfaces (think roofs, driveways,
etc.) on shores, the shore will maintain a protective vegetation,
and development behind such a set-back will be less likely to cause
erosion and save the waters from both natural and chemical run-off
that affects water quality. If towns or associations have already
put standards in place, those ordinances supersede this
legislation, and towns can still create their own standards
There is more going on… access to Pre-K for all who want it,
decriminalization of marijuana, licenses for immigrant works, and
so much more. Stay in touch!
Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-558-0612.