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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Opinion
Walters: Ehlers Launches Worker-Oriented Campaign on May Day

Posted By on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 11:52 PM

James Ehlers - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • James Ehlers
Environmental activist James Ehlers, who's been running for governor as a Democrat since last summer, finally made it official Tuesday night. He launched his campaign with a litany of progressive, pro-labor talking points on May Day, the working class holiday, in Vermont's most iconic workers' landmark: the Old Labor Hall in downtown Barre.

The oft-repeated tagline of the evening was "We, Not Me," a reference to what Ehlers calls his "people first" approach to campaigning and governing.

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Scott Unveils Proposal to Hold Down Taxes, Cut School Costs

Posted By on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 6:12 PM

From left, Secretary of Administration Susanne Young, Commissioner of Finance and Management Adam Greshin and Commissioner of Taxes Kaj Samsom - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • From left, Secretary of Administration Susanne Young, Commissioner of Finance and Management Adam Greshin and Commissioner of Taxes Kaj Samsom
Updated at 7:39 p.m.

Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday proposed using eight distinct pots of money to hold down property taxes in 2019, and unveiled a plan he says would cut school spending and keep property taxes level for another five years.

The governor wants lawmakers to approve the two-part package during the final two weeks of the legislative session.

To find the $58 million needed to avert a property tax increase, Scott would turn to one-time expenditures. Nearly $20 million would come from an unexpectedly large tobacco settlement, much of which lawmakers have already allocated to other programs. The administration is also counting on another $20 million in expected surplus revenue, and it wants to borrow $7 million from the state’s general fund reserves.

Tax Commissioner Kaj Samsom told reporters that transfers from the general fund to the education fund would be paid back over five years.

Still, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) and Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) expressed skepticism about relying on such a large amount of one-time funds.

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Vermont Senate Unanimously Approves $5.85 Billion Budget

Posted By on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 5:55 PM

Senate Appropriations Committee chair Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Senate Appropriations Committee chair Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia)
The Vermont Senate gave unanimous approval Tuesday to a $5.85 billion budget that would make large investments in mental health care and child welfare in 2019, while passing over several of Gov. Phil Scott’s proposals.

Despite winning support from every Senate Republican, the bill, which increases spending over the previous year by less than 1 percent, faces an uncertain future.

It relies on a $34 million tobacco settlement, and Scott announced Tuesday that he wants to use a majority of that money to hold property taxes level. The Republican governor could decide to veto the budget to pressure lawmakers into supporting his property tax and education cost-containment proposal.

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Labor Relations Board Dismisses Former UVM Prof John Summa's Grievance

Posted By on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 4:46 PM

John Summa - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • John Summa
Updated 5:54 p.m.

An economics professor who claimed he was unfairly denied reappointment at the University of Vermont for teaching left-of-center ideas has lost his challenge of the school's decision.

The Vermont Labor Relations Board dismissed the grievance filed by former UVM lecturer John Summa last Friday, finding that he did not "demonstrate that his academic freedom rights were violated," according to its written decision.

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Barton Man Busted After Blasting Smoke Detector With a Shotgun

Posted By on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 3:29 PM

Leroy Mason - COURTESY OF VERMONT STATE POLICE
  • Courtesy of Vermont State Police
  • Leroy Mason
We've all been there. You're cooking an omelette or burger on the stove, get distracted and, within seconds, your smoke detector is blaring and your blood pressure is skyrocketing.

But we haven't all unloaded in the way that Leroy Mason allegedly did on Monday.

Fed up with "frequent false alarms," the Barton man made like Doc Holliday in the O.K. Corral, twice blasting his smoke detector with a 20-gauge shotgun, Vermont State Police said.

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After 30 Years, David Deen to Retire from Vermont Legislature

Posted By on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 10:58 AM

Rep. David Deen - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Rep. David Deen
Rep. David Deen (D-Westminster), the second-most senior member of the Vermont House, plans to retire this fall after 30 years in the legislature.

As chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, the 73-year-old legislator has played a lead role in the ongoing debate about how — and when — to find a long-term funding source to clean up the state's polluted waterways, including Lake Champlain.

Deen, who considered retiring in 2016, told Seven Days at the time that he would stick around for another term to ensure water quality protections were firmly in place. It's not clear he succeeded in that effort. Deen acknowledged Tuesday that, even now, there's more work to be done — but he won't be the one to do it.

“Thirty years of service? Thirty is a nice round number,” Deen said when asked why he chose to retire this year. “People say I’m a slow learner. Maybe I am, but after 15 election cycles of saying, You know what? I gotta run again because there’s more to do, I finally figured it out: There’s always more to do. And I do have a personal agenda in terms of things I’d like to do, and I’d like to get to it, so now’s the time.”

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