Over $209,000 awarded to preserve local agricultural buildingsGovernor Douglas will award 23 barns $209,000 in Historic Preservation Barn grants to preserve their facilities and land. The grant program was orchestrated by the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation and offers up to $10,000 in matching funding to owners of agricultural buildings for roof, foundation, walls, and sills repairs and maintenance. Over the past 20 years the program has provided more than 200 historic agricultural buildings with $1.3 million. Some locations to receive the funding are historic Von Trapp Dairy Farm, the Grand Isle Harman Noble Barn, and Bettys Barn in Chittenden.
Secretary of State Deb Markowitz announced today that 60 Vermont towns will receive grants totaling over $128,000 through the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) Improved Administration of Federal Elections program. These funds will be used to improve the administration of the primary and general elections in 2010. Towns will be able to use these funds to purchase equipment and services to ensure that our elections continue to run smoothly, said Markowitz.The Improved Administration of Federal Elections program is intended to provide funding for services and equipment such as computers, installation of a telephone line at the polling place, signage, computer software and training. Towns were invited to submit applications for funding to the Secretary of State s Office. Since 2005, 284 grants totaling over $558,000 have been awarded to Vermont towns through this program.For more information on the Help America Vote Act, go to the Secretary of State s website at http://vermont-elections.org/elections1/hava.html(link is external)2009 HAVA Grant Recipients and AmountsAddison435.99Barre City4,185.00Barton 2,450.00Berlin760.00Brattleboro1,600.00Burke801.66Burlington 1,172.43Chester1,880.00Colchester2,620.00Concord1,079.00Danville3,100.00Duxbury2,691.00Elmore 350.00Glover 4,000.00Goshen2,985.00Granby494.30Grand Isle 2,200.00Guilford4,000.00Holland 1,000.00Jay1,624.00Johnson1,739.64Leicester2,250.00Lincoln1,642.00Lunenburg550.00Lyndon1,007.50Milton2,780.00Monkton2,441.00Montgomery1,750.00Moretown2,586.54Morristown2,632.00Newfane5,135.50North Hero3,320.00Pownal 2,630.00Putney5,500.00Randolph1,967.00Richford525.00Ripton3,341.00Roxbury1,953.61Ryegate1,868.00Saint Johnsbury2,700.00Salisbury 2,770.99Sandgate2,395.00Shaftsbury2,698.75Shoreham731.00Shrewsbury 264.95South Burlington6,525.00Springfield2,645.00Sudbury2,920.00Waitsfield315.00Walden1,200.00Waterbury545.60Waterford3,067.00West Rutland 390.00Westfield 1,030.00Westminster617.98Wheelock4,119.98Wilmington1,250.00Wolcott2,035.00Woodbury3,650.00Worcester1,486.00
Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin today addressed several concerns that Speaker Shap Smith and other legislative leaders have with the Memorandum of Understanding reached between the Department of Public Service and Entergy Corporation regarding Entergy’s petition to spin off Vermont Yankee to a highly leveraged company named Enexus. Earlier this month the Department of Public Service cited this MOU in the reversal of their position on Entergy’s petition to transfer ownership of Vermont Yankee to Enexus and decided to support the proposal. “Vermonters should be deeply concerned by the Department’s support of Entergy’s plan to spin off Vermont Yankee to a highly leveraged company,” said Senator Shumlin. “While the MOU they have reached with Entergy contains steps in the right direction, Enexus will still be a below investment grade, highly debt ridden company and the decommissioning fund will remain approximately $600 million short of the funds necessary to clean up the plant.”The plan to spin off the plants entails Enexus raising money for the deal by going heavily into debt – bonding $3.5 billion and borrowing over an additional billion. Enexus will then have to put up its assests – the nuclear plants – as collateral for the loans. The result is that if this deal is approved ownership of Vermont Yankee would pass from a healthy, debt-free, investment-grade company to a weaker, debt ridden and much riskier company.Department officials have claimed that the provisions in the MOU – including a $60 million line of credit that can purportedly be used for decommissioning costs – provide the necessary assurances for them to support the deal. However, it is not clear that this $60 million lineof credit could be used for decommissioning purposes. The credit isintended to cover the costs of transitioning the plant from an operating facility to a plant prepared to decommission. Only money left over from this process could be put toward decommissioning costs. Even if the full $60 million line of credit was able to be put toward decommissioning, the fund would still be approximately $600 million short of the estimated decommissioning costs of $1 billion.“Rather than addressing the core problems with the deal – Enexus’ bond ratings and the decommissioning fund – the Department of Public Service has settled for Entergy’s promise that Vermont Yankee will be able to borrow more money for its operations from Enexus subsidiaries than it could from Entergy subsidiaries,” said Senator Shumlin. “At a time when we are digging ourselves out of a recession caused in part by companies and individuals relying on borrowing too much money it seems unwise to place our trust in such a promise.” Senator Shumlin and Speaker Smith have requested that the Senate Finance and House Natural Resources Committees hold a hearing to further analyze the MOU and its repercussions on Vermont Yankee’s reliability and decommissioning fund. “It is impossible not to draw parallels between this deal and the sale of our telecommunications network from Verizon to the debt-laden FairPoint,” said Senator Shumlin. “We can simply not afford another similar mistake that leaves Vermonters paying the bill.”Source: Shumlin’s office. 10.21.2009###
The Vermont Department of Labor announced today the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for June 2010 was 6.0 percent, down two tenths from the revised May rate and down 1.2 percent from a year ago. ‘The unemployment rate and the jobs count both showed improvement in June,’ said Valerie Rickert, Acting Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Labor. ‘A decline in the number of unemployed caused the unemployment rate to drop and the over the month change in the payroll survey may suggest some positive signs for the Vermont economy. The trends of the past several months continue to show slow but steady improvement in the Vermont labor market.’Vermont Labor Force StatisticsSeasonally Adjusted June 2010 May 2010 June 2009 May 2010 June 2009 Change to June 2010 from Total Labor Force358,800360,800360,100-2,000-1,300 Employment337,200338,500334,200-1,3003,000 Unemployment21,60022,30025,900-700-4,300 Rate6.0%6.2%7.2%-0.2-1.2Seasonal Job GrowthThe total job gain in June was mostly typical for the period. Since May, Vermont added 3,350 payroll jobs. Leisure & hospitality contributed the majority, adding 3,800, which reflect seasonal influences at many hotels, motels and eating & drinking establishments. Retail grew by 850 due primarily to the seasonal expansion of payrolls. Construction also continued its seasonal expansion, adding 550 jobs. Manufacturing experienced a healthy over the month change, up 500; both durable and non-durable goods presented increases. Private educational services added 400 jobs, which was a divergence from the typical seasonal pattern. Government education shed a comparatively average number of seasonal jobs in June. A decline in the number of intermittent Census workers drove the downturn in Federal government employment. The annual rate of unadjusted job growth was -0.4%, which is up one percent from the revised May estimate.When seasonally adjusted, June payroll jobs added 1,500 over May and lost 1,900 from a year ago. Leisure & hospitality grew by 1,200, with all of the gain concentrated in accommodation & food services. Private educational services presented an unusual increase, up 1,100 since May, which may represent a statistical anomaly associated with the seasonal aspect of the industry in combination with the aforementioned estimated unadjusted job growth. Construction lost 500 jobs; though we may see some improvement in this sector once more data for June becomes available. Retail added 300 jobs. In aggregate, government lost 400 jobs, with state government down 1,000 and local government up 800 over May.Employment GrowthVermont’s June seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell by two tenths of a point to 6.0 percent as a result of a decline in the number of unemployed. For comparison purposes, the US seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for June was 9.5 percent, also down two tenths from May.June unemployment rates for Vermont’s 17 labor market areas ranged from 4.1 percent in Hartford to 7.9 percent in Newport. Local labor market area unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted. For comparison, the June unadjusted unemployment rate for Vermont was 5.9 percent, unchanged from May and down 1.3 percent from a year ago. The change in the unadjusted unemployment rate was not statistically significant from the May value.Source: Vermont DOL. 7.20.2010
by Anne Galloway, www.vtdigger.org(link is external) April 23, 2011 A new draft report shows that the state of Vermont could save hundreds of millions of dollars if it adopts the recommendations outlined by H.202, the health care reform bill as passed by the Vermont House of Representatives. (The bill was altered somewhat by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee last week and the legislation, and a number of amendments, was schduled to be taken up by the full Senate at 2 pm on Monday.)If a single-payer style health care system is implemented, the state would save about $55 million in 2015, according to data from Steve Kappel, a consultant who helped to prepare the report. In 2016, the state could save $201 million. (The aforementioned figures do not include dental and vision care.) These net savings are based on a calculation that includes an extension of essential benefit plans for uninsured residents and improved plans for underinsured Vermonters. The state currently has 47,000 uninsured and more than 100,000 underinsured residents.Overall savings would be 5 percent to 6 percent of spending under the health care reform plan, according to the report. The authors of the report found that ‘the savings from a reformed system continue to exceed the cost of expanded coverage and other investments.’The calculations are conservative ‘ they do not include the full administrative savings estimated by Harvard economist William Hsiao in his report to the Legislature. Hsiao said the state could capture $180 million in the first year (net) of health care reform, based on administrative savings for providers of 5.3 percent.Long-term savings are even more dramatic, according to the study. The new estimates indicate that Vermont health care spending will be about $6.71 billion in 2015. The state currently spends about $5 billion a year. The report shows that baseline state spending on medical care will be about $8 billion in 2018. If the state implements a single-payer style system in 2014, it could save about $1 billion in health care spending in 2018, according to the report. (See the chart on page 13.)These figures assume 2.65 percent in savings in administrative costs for providers.Rep. Mark Larson, chair of the House Health Care Committee, said the House requested the report in response to concerns that projected savings under a unified health care system were too optimistic.‘People wanted confirmation that savings could be achieved,’ Larson said. Opponents of the bill asserted that the savings were overstated, Larson said, and ‘this answers that critique.’‘Even under more conservative assumptions, we can cover all Vermonters and save money compared with the current system,’ Larson said.Larson said if the state also pursued medical malpractice savings there would be even more significant savings.‘We always knew there would be a substantial cushion,’ Larson said. ‘This report confirms that’s still the case.’The report was prepared by Kappel, of Policy Integrity, the Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office and the Vermont Department of Banking Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration. The Vermont House requested the study, which was based on estimates from Hsiao’s report.Hsiao predicted that the state could save 25.3 percent in health care spending if it reduced administrative inefficiencies (3 percent for payers; 5.3 percent for providers), embarked on payment reforms (9 percent), continued with Blueprint for Health efforts (1 percent), curbed fraud and abuse (5 percent) and reformed malpractice policies (2 percent).The authors of the new report used more ‘pessimistic assumptions’ than those Hsiao relied on in his reports to the Legislature. The legislative study includes models that reduce the amount of anticipated administrative savings to be achieved through a uniform payment system by 50 percent. Even in this scenario, the study shows significant savings.In addition, the figures used in the new report are adjusted for inflation and are based on the latest health care finance data from BISHCA. Hsiao’s report was based on 2010 dollars. The actuarial value used in the report is identical to Hsiao’s: 87 percent, the current average value of insurance coverage for Vermonters.BISHCA released a new ‘expenditure analysis’ in March that updates spending estimates and forecasts for 2008 through 2013.The report does not include medical malpractice reforms because ‘medmal,’ as it’s called, is not included in H.202, though it is an issue lawmakers want to address when more specifics for the reform plan have been hammered out.The report provides data for six different scenarios, including malpractice savings. Anne Galloway is editor of vtdigger.org
Last Mile Celebration ‘ The planned reopening of Vermont Route 107 between Bethel and Stockbridge ‘ the final segment of state highway closed due to Tropical Storm Irene.WHO: VTrans, State and Local Officials, Contractors, Local Partners, Community MembersWHEN: Thursday, December 29, 1:00 pmWHERE: Stockbridge Central School2933 VT Route 107Stockbridge, VTSUMMARY: To coincide with the planned reopening of Vermont Route 107 this week, state and local officials will join with project partners and community groups to celebrate this important step in Vermont’s recovery. This event is open to the public.