Revenues are up, but it’s all relative

Posted by Jack Hoffman on January 22, 2021 at 2:17 pm | Comments Off on Revenues are up, but it’s all relative

Federal stimulus funds clearly have been a godsend for Vermont and other states. Through the first round of relief—direct payments to state government, supplemental unemployment benefits, or aid to businesses—more than $5 billion flowed into Vermont to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic and to offset some of the economic damage it has caused.

And we learned this week, thanks to all of this federal aid, that Vermont will be collecting hundreds of millions more in tax revenue this year and next. But before we assume the crisis has passed, we need to ask: Hundreds of millions more than what?

More federal pandemic relief

Posted by Julie Lowell on January 15, 2021 at 2:38 pm | Comments Off on More federal pandemic relief

As the legislature gets into full swing this month, dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 on Vermonters will be at the top of the list. At the end of 2020, Washington approved another round of pandemic relief, adding more funds and extending the spending deadline for the federal aid sent last spring.

Vermont expects up to $2.5 billion from this new round of aid, with $1.8 billion accounted for so far. The aid includes funds for businesses, broadband investments, food, COVID-19 response, and other priorities. The new money extends a number of programs slated to expire including federal unemployment insurance and food programs, as well as additional health care support to test, trace and vaccinate Vermonters. About $650 million of that will be subject to legislative oversight.

New report: ‘Working with Disability’

Posted by Paul Cillo on November 24, 2020 at 11:10 am | Comments Off on New report: ‘Working with Disability’

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed deep-rooted structural inequalities in the U.S. Immense, historic, and racialized inequity in health and health care and the near-invisible “essential workers” who make everyone’s daily lives possible.

Who is “essential?” Who is invisible? What rights do people have to safety and dignity in the workplace? Who is considered expendable?

These issues are not new for people with disabilities, who have fought for access to employment and other civil and human rights for more than half a century.

The Vermont Center for Independent Living (VCIL) has issued a new report—Working with Disability: Toward a truly inclusive Vermont labor force—with data, history, and personal stories of Vermonters with disabilities.

Late is better than never for more COVID relief

Posted by Jack Hoffman on November 10, 2020 at 9:05 am | Comments Off on Late is better than never for more COVID relief

Now that Election Day is over Congress needs to get back to work and approve another round of COVID relief to support the states. New national daily COVID cases are topping 130,000, and the first round of federal relief is running out.

So far, Vermont hasn’t taken the financial hit that was anticipated last March when COVID-19 became a pandemic. That is due in large part to swift action by Congress. The CARES Act directed more than $4.5 billion in federal aid to Vermont businesses, individuals, and state government. That included $600 a week in federal supplemental unemployment benefits, which was a lifeline to workers who had to stop working but couldn’t support their families on regular state unemployment insurance payments.

According to a new report from the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office, the federal aid pumped into the Vermont economy helped to generate nearly $50 million in extra tax revenue for the first three months of this fiscal year. General Fund tax receipts from July through September were expected to be $523 million. Instead, the state took in almost $573 million.

Will we set a new voting record?

Posted by Julie Lowell on October 27, 2020 at 4:07 pm | Comments Off on Will we set a new voting record?
The presidential election is a week away and Vermonters have already broken one voting record. Forty percent of voting age Vermonters have cast an absentee ballot so far, according to Vermont’s Election Division, breaking the 2008 record of 19 percent. Now let’s break one more – total voter participation rate.

No school tax increase for COVID shortfall

Posted by Paul Cillo on October 23, 2020 at 11:07 am | * Comments (1)

The Legislature did the right thing this year by holding property tax payers harmless after the COVID pandemic took a big bite out of the state’s Education Fund. The state is better situated to deal with a revenue shortfall than individual taxpayers or school districts, who already face monumental trials during this crisis. Read more

Fiscal 2021 budget provides some help to Vermonters left behind

Posted by Julie Lowell on October 8, 2020 at 2:32 pm | Comments Off on Fiscal 2021 budget provides some help to Vermonters left behind

Washington scrambled to meet people’s needs as COVID-19 shutdowns began in March. Many received financial support, others did not. Those left out include low-wage, essential workers—disproportionately women and Vermonters of color—who have been hit hardest by the crisis both physically and economically.

Vermont’s Legislature and governor deserve credit for taking the pandemic seriously and working to address Vermonters’ needs during this crisis. Before taking a summer break at the end of June, the Legislature appropriated $28.0 million for the Hazard Pay program, providing 16,000 front-line public safety and health care workers with one-time bonus pay of up to $2,000.

In September, they finished work on the state’s fiscal 2021 budget, signed by Governor Scott on October 2nd, addressing additional inequities. The budget allocates $5 million for the Economic Stimulus Equity Program and an additional $22.5 million to expand the Hazard Pay program, strengthening their COVID-19 response by including more workers.

Vermont’s unemployment rate riddle

Posted by Paul Cillo on September 23, 2020 at 1:10 pm | Comments Off on Vermont’s unemployment rate riddle

Q: When is a drop in the unemployment rate bad news?

A:  When people are leaving the labor force rather than going back to work.

The official monthly employment numbers for August were released last Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Vermont’s reported unemployment rate fell from 8.3 percent in July to 4.8 percent in August.

That would normally be great news. Fewer unemployed means more people have gone back to work, right?

Testimony follow up: Vermont Tax Structure Commission

Posted by Sarah Lyons on September 14, 2020 at 10:53 am | Comments Off on Testimony follow up: Vermont Tax Structure Commission

September 11, 2020

Vermont Tax Structure Commission

Re: Follow up to August 31 testimony

Dear Commissioners:

Thank you for inviting me and our deputy director Stephanie Yu to your meeting last week. We appreciated the opportunity to review with you some of the key reasons we believe that eliminating the school property tax on primary residences is good public policy and how making this change would create a fairer, simpler school funding system for voters and taxpayers.

I want to review and expand on some points that were addressed at the August 31 meeting:

Balanced budget can’t make up for lost federal aid

Posted by Jack Hoffman on September 10, 2020 at 3:17 pm | Comments Off on Balanced budget can’t make up for lost federal aid

Dithering in Washington has left a lot of states scrambling to figure out how to pay for the support and services their citizens desperately need. In Vermont, Washington’s paralysis means the Legislature will have just over a month to determine whether the $7.1 billion budget Gov. Phil Scott proposed for the current fiscal year will be adequate to get Vermonters, including individuals and businesses who have seen federal support dry up, through the coronavirus pandemic. In a normal year, House and Senate committees spend four or five months taking testimony, negotiating, and deliberating on appropriations bills.