NEW HAMPSHIRE Future Construction Activity December 2011 2010 %ChangeNonresidential $18,729,000 $9,924,000 89%Residential $25,131,000 $37,947,000 -34%Nonbuilding $12,499,000 $16,724,000 -25%Total Construction $56,422,000 $64,595,000 -13% For the Year-to-date on a cumulative basis, the totals are:Year to Date 2011 2010 %ChangeNonresidential $223,368,000 $308,277,000 -28%Residential $210,198,000 $241,055,000 -13%Nonbuilding $326,863,000 $424,769,000 -23%Total Construction $760,429,000 $974,101,000 -22% FW Dodge. For the Year-to-date on a cumulative basis, the totals are:Year to Date 2011 2010 %ChangeNonresidential $683,000,000 $792,639,000 -14%Residential $440,673,000 $529,684,000 -17%Nonbuilding $299,624,000 $660,143,000 -55%Total Construction $1,423,297,000 $1,982,466,000 -28% Numbers are for the value of projects under contract.Nonresidential buildings include commercial, manufacturing, educational, religious, administrative, recreational, hotel, dormitory, and other buildings.Residential buildings include one and two family houses and apartments.Nonbuilding construction includes streets and highways, bridges, dams and reservoirs, river and harbor developments, sewage and water supply systems, missile and space facilities, airports, utilities and communication systems. Contracts for future construction activity in Vermont show decline in December and for the entire year versus 2010. New Hampshire suffered similar results. VERMONT Future Construction Activity December 2011 2010 %ChangeNonresidential $12,593,000 $6,079,000 +++Residential $7,690,000 $13,967,000 -45%Nonbuilding $25,323,000 $67,535,000 -47%Total Construction $15,668,000 $17,249,000 -33%
by Tom Pelham Frugality and moderation – today these words seem old-fashioned and out of style, certainly regarding government spending. Yet, frugal people know moderation trumps wastefulness and sloth and that the day-to-day decisions of a cautious buyer promote long term financial health. The maxim ‘ a penny saved is a penny earned’ has value when applied to life’ s choices, ranging from home energy efficiency and car mileage to house sizes and mortgages to the purchase of quality food over junk and the cell services connecting us.Vermont’ s constitution speaks to these virtues. Article 18 reads in part that ‘ a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, industry, and frugality, are absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty, and keep government free; the people ought, therefore to pay particular attention to these points, in the choice of officers and representatives.’Vermonters have experienced the unhappy consequences when its ‘ officers and representatives’ stray from theses virtues. Governor Kunin is rightfully recognized for her many strengths, but frugality was not among them. In the 6 years prior to 1991, state general and transportation fund spending grew at the annual rate of 9.2 percent before crashing into the 1990-1991 recession. The damage, lasting over eight years, included the downgrade of Vermont’ s bond rating and the dishevelment of many important state programs. Fiscal stability was restored with the subsequent leadership of Governors Snelling and Dean. In the 8 years following 1991, state general and transportation fund spending grew at the modest rate of 2.6 percent. By 1999, Vermont’ s bond rating was repaired and investments in important new initiatives from healthcare (VHAP) to land conservation (the Champion lands) were affordable.Through most of the last decade, our ‘ officers and representatives’ abided the wisdom of frugality and moderation. The practical application of these virtues was called ‘ sustainable spending’ , which allows the state budget to grow at rates matching realities in the underlying economy, from which state government extracts its revenues.More recently, however, our leaders have abandoned sustainable spending. Since 2008, Vermont’ s population grew by less than one percent, those employed actually dropped by one percent, median household incomes were unchanged though wage growth was up by 7.8%, inflation grew by 8.6% and the education grand list’ s value dropped by 3%.In striking comparison, total state spending grew by over 22% (up $909 million) and the two largest cost centers of state government, human services and education, grew respectively by 29.2% (up $472 million) and 11.2% (up $140 million). The continuing decline in student enrollment (down 6.2%) drove education spending per student up by 15.4% while property taxes rose by 17.6% (up $124 million).In two ways, our state leaders missed opportunities to avoid the imbalances described above. First, from 2009 to 2011, Vermont received over $930 million in federal ‘ stimulus assistance’ to bolster the economy and protect the most vulnerable. But, rather than use these funds in a measured way to maintain existing benefits, programs were expanded like Fuel Assistance. With ‘ one-time’ federal revenues now no longer available, our expanded state budget is now structurally out-of-balance and as proposed for fiscal 2014 relies heavily on high risk revenues such as prior year ‘ carry forwards’ , diversions from the transportation fund, the expropriation of Catamount fees assessed on small businesses, diversions from a program benefiting the working poor (EITC) to child care, and revenues from break-open tickets, among others.Secondly, minimizing a recession’ s fallout requires leaders to exercise a firm fiscal hand during a recession consistent with a forward looking exit strategy. If weak hands prevail, as they have, the grip of the recession hangs on longer. The firm hand must include reforms that make government more fit and prepared to engage the future as the recession recedes. Unfortunately, with millions of one-time federal dollars available, decision-makers side-stepped available choices to better position state government to exit the recession. These choices, including k-12 education reforms and Challenge for Change and Tiger Team reforms, offered tens of millions in savings opportunities.Our current leaders might hope that their fiscal choices will go unnoticed and without consequence. But, before our eyes we see the state lurch from ‘ budget gap’ to ‘ budget gap’ . We see no real action, for example, on education reform that puts children and property taxpayers first while yielding savings. Yet, our ‘ officers and representatives’ among them republicans, democrats and progressives alike, can’ t run fast enough with Vermont’ s checkbook in hand to satisfy special interest lobbyists. This week its mandating union dues on non-union employees to fatten union coffers.But the day always comes when fiscal imbalance demands resolution, and it’ s never pretty. At the end of this legislative session, our Governor may be face-to-face with his fiscal legacy. Let’ s hope he can get ‘ tough things done’ .Tom Pelham was Finance Commissioner for Governor Dean, Tax Commissioner for Governor Douglas and elected to the House of Representatives as an Independent, serving on the Appropriations Committee. He is a co-founder of Campaign for Vermont.
With the school year just under way, Governor Peter Shumlin and Education Secretary Armando Vilaseca today visited Barre Town Elementary School to herald a new law making Vermont the first state in the nation to provide school meals –breakfast and lunch — at no charge for all students qualifying for the federal reduced-price meals program.‘We all know that hungry children can’t learn,’ Shumlin said, who was joined by advocates committed to the battle against childhood hunger. ‘Vermont is the first state to ensure that all children have access to good food, and therefore a better education.’Previously, children whose families earned over 130 percent of the federal poverty level (roughly $30,620 for a family of four) were ineligible for free school meals. The new law means that 37,000 children are now able to have breakfast and lunch at no charge during the school day.‘With the governor’s support, the Agency of Education and food advocates worked together to ensure that all students have the resources they need,’ said Secretary Vilaseca. ‘This is a huge step in the right direction. Schools will be able to provide kids with a reliable food source, allowing students to focus on their academics without worrying where their next meal will come from.’School meals are the main source of nutrition for many children. The USDA provides various levels of federal reimbursement for meals served to all students. Vermont’s schools are in a unique position to ensure that all low-income students have access to healthy school meals at no charge with the new legislation, which was passed by the 2012 Legislature and signed into law by Governor Shumlin.”This supports not only our students, but our school food service programs as well,’ said Laurie Colgan, VT-AOE Child Nutrition Program Director. ‘I hear from many schools that they are spending a lot of administrative time trying to collect bills for school meals. This support from our Governor and the Legislature indicates a strong commitment to the future of Vermont’s students and the schools they attend.”In 2008, Vermont made history by making breakfast free for all students who qualify for the reduced-price program. Hunger Free Vermont is an active voice in the on-going conversations about food insecurity. They assist schools with establishing school breakfast and lunch programs while also working to improve food quality and expand access to this reliable source of nutrition for school age children.‘We are thrilled that Governor Shumlin and the Vermont Legislature supported this school meal expansion to ensure that all children in Vermont schools have proper nutrition on a daily basis,’ said Marissa Parisi, Executive Director of Hunger Free Vermont. ‘We believe this will positively impact children’s health as well as their ability to learn and focus in the classroom without the worry of whether or not they will be able to eat lunch.’Improvements in children’s health and education have helped Vermont maintain its No. 3 ranking by the annual Kids Count report, released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in education, family and community, as well as No. 4 in overall children’s health. However, as it is elsewhere in the nation, poverty continues to be a problem in Vermont, and the percentage of children who rely on summer meal assistance has been increasing in Vermont.‘Improvement of educational opportunities when faced with societal issues like poverty requires systemic approaches,’ said Sec. Vilaseca. ‘These are not easy problems to address, but the Agency of Education, in partnership with education stakeholders, has been able to make a difference through increased use of our full service approaches for delivering essential needs for Vermont’s youth.’‘While we rank high nationally in many areas, we always strive to do better,’ said John Fischer, Deputy Commissioner of Education. ‘It’s about continuous improvement. We want to graduate all students from high school and with better career readiness every year.’School officials across the state endorsed the change.‘The elimination of the reduced price for students will benefit families, students, and teachers,’ said Steve Marinelli, Milton Town School District Food Service Director. ‘No longer will families have to struggle to pay for lunch and teachers will not have to worry about the nutritional needs of these students.’‘This bill finally removes a barrier between low income students and food access that has been in place throughout the country for over 50 years,’ said Doug Davis, Burlington School District Food Service Director. ‘By becoming the first state in the nation to eliminate the reduced priced meal category, Vermont has once again proven itself to be leader in the fight to end childhood hunger.’Source: Governor’s office. 9.3.2013
At the request of Governor Peter Shumlin, Vermont emergency management officials on Thursday asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to conduct a damage assessment in the Champlain Valley and northern Vermont counties impacted by the on-going ice storm. The state is applying in an attempt to secure federal public assistance to help cover the cost of cleanup and recovery from the storm.‘I am requesting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency join State and Local teams to conduct a Joint Preliminary Damage Assessment in the Counties of Caledonia, Chittenden, Essex, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, and Orleans for Public Assistance,’ wrote Joe Flynn, Director of the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security to FEMA’s Acting Regional Administrator Paul F. Ford.Flynn noted that rain, freezing rain, snow, icing conditions, and near zero temperatures have impacted Vermont since Dec. 20, creating power outages affecting 22,000 households ‘ about 75,000 Vermonters ‘ at its peak. In addition, Flynn said, the fluctuations in icing conditions and the repeated need to clear and remove debris caused multiple outages for some customers.‘This has been a real challenge for the utility crews because icy tree branches continue to fall and knock out power lines, making it difficult for the lines crews to keep the power on,’ said Gov. Shumlin. ‘It has also been a struggle for many Vermonters in these hard-hit areas, particularly in Franklin County and other northern Vermont communities, who are spending this holiday week without heat and electricity, often staying with friends and family.’The Governor said the state would continue to push until power has been restored to every customer.’ Although the number of outages dipped to under 500 earlier today, snowfall-laden trees knocked out power to additional households, with an estimated 1,040 homes without electricity as of late afternoon.Crews continued to work throughout the region.Flynn asked FEMA to send personnel beginning’ Jan. 2’ to work with state and local teams to determine damage estimates. Depending upon final costs, Vermont could be eligible for federal assistance for some municipal and cooperative utility restoration costs, local debris clearance and removal costs, and other disaster caused infrastructure damage.’ Source: Governor’s office 12.26.2013
Seventh Generation,Vermont Business Magazine In celebration of National Breastfeeding Month, Seventh Generation(link is external), a leading household and baby care company, is turning to moms across the country to determine the location of two new Mamava pumping and nursing pods. The national crowdsourcing campaign aims to give moms more choices for breastfeeding on-the-go. Seventh Generation has opened a call to moms nationwide to submit the location they’d like to have access to a lactation pod. Created by Mamava, a company dedicated to transforming the culture of breastfeeding, the self-contained, mobile pods offer comfortable benches, an electrical outlet and door that can be fully shut for privacy.After two weeks of collecting submissions, Seventh Generation will narrow down the results to four locations to take part in a final round of voting, which will begin on August 25th. The two locations with the most votes will receive a Seventh Generation sponsored pod that is a comfortable place for moms to pump or nurse.”As we continue our partnership with Mamava, we’re eager to include more moms in the process of expanding breastfeeding options across the country,” said John Moorhead, Brand Manager at Seventh Generation. “Seventh Generation is excited to help moms everywhere live a life free and clear of uncomfortable nursing or pumping locations and who better to tell us where there is a need than moms themselves.”In May, Seventh Generation announced the installment of four pumping and nursing pods for mothers, manufactured by Mamava, in key New York Metropolitan airports — one pod in JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at JFK Airport, two pods at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and one at LaGuardia (LGA). This was the beginning of a progressive partnership with Mamava, which delivered great choices for moms to pump with dignity while traveling. In June, the company added two branded pods at Burlington International Airport (BTV).”At Mamava we believe moms shouldn’t have to use their breast pumps in the bathroom, or struggle to find a comfortable place to nurse,” states Sascha Mayer, founder of Mamava. “Working with Seventh Generation has allowed us to bring our lactation suites to moms across the country looking for a better solution. The crowdsourcing campaign is just one way to help bring Mamava to every state.”For more information on the Seventh Generation and Mamava crowdsourcing campaign and to submit your location, visit: http://map.mamava.com(link is external).About Seventh Generation Established in 1988, in Burlington, Vermont, Seventh Generation is one of the nation’s leading brands of household and personal care products. The company lives its commitment to “caring today for seven generations of tomorrows,” with products formulated to provide mindful solutions for the air, surfaces, fabrics, pets and people within your home — and for the community and environment outside of it. A pioneer in corporate responsibility, Seventh Generation continually evaluates ways to reduce its environmental impact, increase performance and safety, and create a more sustainable supply chain. To learn more about Seventh Generation products and business practices, locate a retailer in your area, or review Seventh Generation’s Corporate Consciousness Report, visit www.seventhgeneration.com(link is external).About MamavaMamava, based in Burlington, Vermont was incubated at Solidarity of Unbridled Labour (formerly JDK Design), a world-renowned design studio. Mamava creates design solutions for nursing mothers on the go. We believe that a woman should be able to breastfeed her baby anywhere she wants to, and we also know there is a need, especially in high-traffic public areas, for a private and comfortable place to use a breast pump or nurse. Mamava is mama owned, made in America, and a proud member of the B Corp community.
National Life Group,Vermont Business Magazine National Life Group(link is external)’s Do Good Fest(link is external) raised $30,000 for Central Vermont Medical Center(link is external)’s Branches of Hope(link is external) cancer patient fund over the weekend. The money represents nearly $24,000 in parking receipts, merchandise sales and donations on the day of the music festival, as well as a $6,000 contribution from the National Life Group Foundation(link is external).“What a fantastic, record-breaking event we had here,” said Mehran Assadi, president and CEO of National Life. “But even more important, we are so grateful to the people of our community who came and supported cancer patients. This is part of our cause at National Life. And we like to have fun while we do good.”Branches of Hope is a fund that helps cancer patients pay extraordinary expenses while they’re undergoing treatment and may be out of work. Among the things it has helped pay in the past are heating bills, transportation expenses, lodging near out-of-town treatment centers, or even dental care before treatment can begin.The fund once supported itself through bake sales. With this weekend’s Do Good Fest, which drew 5,200 enthusiastic fans, National Life has raised $56,000 for Branches of Hope over the past three years.Assadi presented an oversize check for $30,000 to Judy Tartaglia, President and CEO of Central Vermont Medical Center. “On behalf of our cancer patients, thank you so much,” Tartaglia said. “These funds will go a long way to ease the stress and burden that our cancer patients and their families face every day.”She also thanked The Point(link is external), Vermont’s independent radio network based in Montpelier, which was the presenting sponsor of the Do Good Fest. Program Director Zeb Norris, who lined up Big Head Todd and the Monsters and Brett Dennen to headline the show, said The Point shared the mission of serving the community.“When I can get my friends in great bands to help a great cause it makes for an all-around great party,” he said.The Do Good Fest was co-sponsored by Seven Days(link is external), Montpelier Alive(link is external), Harpoon Brewery(link is external) and the National Life Group Foundation. National Life also partnered with King Arthur Flour(link is external), Three Penny Taproom(link is external) and Local Motion(link is external). King Arthur’s Baking for Good truck was among the food trucks at the festival and the employee-owned company made a $1,000 donation to Branches of Hope.Planning is already under way for Do Good Fest 2017(link is external), which is tentatively set for July 15. Updates will be posted online.About National Life GroupAt National Life, our story is simple: For more than 167 years we’ve worked hard to deliver on our promises to millions of people with our vision of providing peace of mind in times of need. It’s our cause, stemming from a deep passion to live our values to do good, be good and make good, every day. Learn more at NationalLife.com(link is external).
by Rob Roper Before Peter Shumlin became governor, he famously said that there was no more tax capacity left in Vermont. We were ‘tapped out.” Since then, Shumlin and majorities in the legislature have passed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new taxes and fees. Despite this, the state still deals with a consistent structural budget deficit and revenue shortfalls.Many of our politicians, like Shumlin, pay lip service to hearing Vermonter’s pain when it comes to our tax burdens and overspending by the state, but their records tell a different story. And, these particular zebras aren’t going to change their stripes. Just look at the tax and spending proposals that are on the table for tapped out Vermonters to contemplate for 2017.The Carbon Tax. This is ultimately a $500 million dollar per year excise tax on fossil fuels. This translates into adding 88¢ to each gallon of gasoline, $1.02 per gallon of diesel and home heating oil, and similar increases for propane, natural gas, kerosene, butane and aviation fuel. Proponents say that 90% of the revenue collected would be returned via a variety redistribution schemes (keep in mind that households making over 200% of poverty level, or about $25,000, will not qualify for rebates and will get stuck with the bill), but hedge that promise by admitting the state is always free to find other uses for the money.In 2014, Rep. Tony Klein (D-East Montpelier), chair of the House Energy & Natural Resources gave an interview stating about the Carbon Tax that “it’s at least a three-year process,” and that “you don’t [pass a massive tax increase] in an election year.” This means 2017 – after this November’s election – is the target for passage. The primary Carbon Tax bill presented in the 2015-16 biennium has 28 sponsors, all Democrats and Progressives, including Democratic Lt. Gubernatorial candidate Kesha Ram. All three Democratic candidates for governor, Matt Dunne, Peter Galbraith, and Sue Minter, support some version of a Carbon Tax. Dr. Dynasaur 2.0. This program would essentially expand children’s Medicaid benefits to adults 18-26 years old. It has a total price tag of $400 million, and ignores the fact that Medicaid is already the primary reason for the state’s structural budget deficit. Additionally, removing these young, healthy Vermonters from the private insurance market would cause private insurance rates to skyrocket. Despite all this, a majority in the legislature voted last year to spend $100,000 to study Dr. Dynasaur 2.0 in preparation for the 2017 legislative session.2% Payroll Tax. This is a proposed $240 million tax increase by Peter Galbraith that would be used to pay for “Universal Primary Care.” In a nutshell, the state would pay doctors a set rate per patient for full access to primary care services. Patients would still need insurance for non-basic or catastrophic health events, which account for 95% of healthcare spending.All three Democratic gubernatorial candidates support moving forward with some version of Dr. Dynasaur 2.0, Universal Primary Care, or both, as a step toward a comprehensive single payer healthcare system – doubling down on Peter Shumlin’s greatest financial and political disaster.“Free” College. All three Democrats running for governor have plans to subsidize college tuition that would cost taxpayers between $45 million and $12 million, depending upon the plan. Matt Dunne’s plan would rely on an increase in the capital gains tax, Sue Minter would increase the bank franchising fee and create new corporate taxes targeting banks, and Galbraith’s plan would rely on a number of tax increases, including a tax on cloud computing services and closing income tax loopholes. Pick your poison.Public Pre-K. Since the mid-2000s, the legislature has been steadily increasing government’s (and property taxpayers’) role in daycare for three and four year olds. The goal is full day, publicly funded pre-k programs administered by the public school system, essentially adding two years to the K-12 system. This year, a major push is underway to expand the current programs and expand the scope of interest from three and four year olds to “birth to five.”A coalition of special interest groups, Let’s Grow Kids, Vermont Birth to Five, Building Bright Futures, are working with the Vermont Department of Children and Families on a statewide propaganda campaign to fund this expansion. “Ultimately, this will require increased investment in Vermont’s early childhood system,” writes advocate Robyn Freedner-Maguire in the group’s latest Op-Ed. Though they don’t specify the amounts they will ultimately be asking for, and the Joint Fiscal Office has yet to make an official estimate the cost, a rough estimate is between a $50 million and $100 million increase to the property tax burden.These are just the big plans. None of this accounts for the existing revenue gap we’ll need to close to continue paying for the government in place as it is. So, as the primary elections come to a close on August 9 and we know who our official candidates for state office will be, make a point of asking them about these issues. If they really care about lowering your tax burden, they won’t support any of them. Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. He lives in Stowe.
Vermont Business Magazine In a unanimous decision, including Associate Justice John A Dooley, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled today that Governor Shumlin did not have the authority to appoint a replacement for Dooley. Dooley had announced his retirement last fall, but will not step down until this spring. The governor argued that the constitution nonetheless allowed him to appoint the next justice when a seat became imminent. The justices ruled otherwise.In conclusion, Paul L Reiber, Chief Justice; Dooley; Marilyn S Skoglund, Associate Justice; Harold E Eaton, Jr, Associate Justice; and Walter M Morris, Jr, Superior Judge (Ret), Specially Assigned, wrote in their opinion:“We conclude that the Vermont Constitution does not authorize respondent (Governor Shumlin) to appoint an Associate Justice of this Court in anticipation of a vacancy that is not expected to occur until the expiration of the justice’s term of office, which will occur months after respondent leaves office. In so holding, we emphasize that our decision today rests entirely upon the meaning and purpose of the Vermont Constitution. We reach our decision having in mind the overarching principles of our democracy: the integrity of our governing institutions and the people’s confidence in them. The particular identity of the parties or potential nominees to the Office of Associate Justice have no bearing on our decision. Our sole responsibility in this, as in any, case is to apply the law evenhandedly, regardless of the identity of the litigants, the sensitivity of the issues, or the passing political interests of the moment. As we have elsewhere observed, ‘[o]ur constitutional responsibility to consider the legal merits of issues properly before us provides no exception for the controversial case’. Baker v. State, 170 Vt. 194, 197, 744 A.2d 864, 867 (1999).” Baker v. State was the same-sex marriage case, which ultimately led to Vermont’s civil union and marriage equality laws.The justices concluded: “Respondent is not constitutionally authorized to appoint a successor to the office held by Associate Justice John Dooley. Mandate to issue forthwith.”In response, Governor Shumlin said in a statement: “I want to thank the Attorney General’s Office as well as Senator Richard Sears for weighing in as the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. I do not agree with today’s ruling, and it is inconsistent with my Administration’s reading of the law. I wish the next governor well in selecting the new Justice.”House Republican Leader Don Turner (R-Milton), who brought the issue to the Vermont Supreme Court, said in a statement:“I would like to express sincere gratitude to the Vermont Supreme Court for hearing our case in short notice, and for ruling in validation of our petition that rightly challenged Governor Shumlin’s constitutional authority to appoint Justice John Dooley’s successor. I would also like to thank Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning (Caledonia) for joining as co-petitioner, and Representative Janssen Willhoit (St Johnsbury) and Deb Bucknam for ably representing us in court.”“I took this legal recourse to defend transparency and accountability in the workings of our state government. Vermonters deserve to know if an outgoing governor possesses the legal authority to make judicial and administrative appointments in the event that the vacancy is set to occur past his time in office. The Court’s unanimous decision today puts this important matter to rest once and for all.“I am pleased that the Court prevented Governor Shumlin from setting a troubling precedent of executive overreach, and from taking an unconstitutional step that would have opened the door to foreseeable litigation. Today’s decision upholds the integrity of our governing institutions and the confidence that Vermonters place in them.”Source: Vermont Supreme Court. Governor Shumlin. Representative Turner. 1.4.2017. CLICK HERE FOR FULL RULING (link is external)
by Stephanie Hainley Over 50 million working Americans are headed toward poverty in retirement. The lack of retirement savings is staggering, but fortunately, there is one simple way to help change that: give more people access to workplace savings plans. Some states, including Vermont under the guiding hand of Treasurer Beth Pearce, the Governor’s support, and bi-partisan efforts, have taken it upon themselves to help more working families save by creating a state-based public retirement option, which makes it incredibly simple for Vermont’s small employers to offer their employees access to a vetted product. Vermont’s small business economy depends on innovative solutions like this, and I am pleased to see Green Mountain Secure Retirement on the horizon.As COO of a small business, I know firsthand how costly it can be to set up access to retirement savings product for a small number of employees. While we did it at White + Burke, it is complex and labor-intensive. For many Vermont’s small employers, who often operate on modest bottom lines, providing a retirement plan to employees is just not feasible. Passed through the legislature as part of the economic development bill (S.135), the new Green Mountain Secure Retirement program, sets up a public opt-in multiple employer plan (MEP). Only small businesses that wish to enter into the plan will do so. This program would also be the first plan of its kind in the nation to allow for an employer to make contributions, in addition to employees. RELATED STORIES:Small business retirement plan passesPAI: State can help Vermonters save for retirementState-based plans, like Green Mountain Secure Retirement, offer small businesses a solution that gives them greater opportunity to recruit and train good employees and better compete with larger companies that are able to offer comprehensive benefits packages. Green Mountain Secure Retirement also gives Vermont’s small business owners a more secure way to save for themselves.Many small business owners see their business as an investment – one they can count on when they are ready to retire. They typically have two options: sell the business or hire committed managers to run it. All too often, the sale price of the business is not even close to their total investment and with others running the business, sometimes profit is only enough to cover basic expenses. Small business owners are often stuck working well beyond retirement age – or they retire into poverty.The Green Mountain Secure Retirement plan could help the 45 percent of Vermonters, including small business owners, who do not have access to an employer-sponsored plan, save for retirement. Helping more Vermonters achieve better financial footing later in life will make our state economy healthier.Anyone who works hard and plays by the rules should not have to choose between retiring into poverty or working until they die. I’m disappointed to see lawmakers at the federal level continue to make it more complicated for people to save, but I am encouraged and proud to live in a state that is working toward greater economic security for all.Stephanie Hainley is a Board Member for Main Street Alliance of Vermont and the Chief Operating Officer at White + Burke Real Estate Investment Advisors.
Vermont Business Magazine Bennington County has been added to the FEMA Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) request after Vermont Officials identified additional damage this week. The PDA will be conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) beginning on Wednesday afternoon. Rain storms and resulting floods washed out roads and damaged other public infrastructure in several Vermont towns from June 29 – July 1. The state has identified more than $6-million in public infrastructure damage, far exceeding the $1-million threshold Vermont must show to be considered for a major disaster declaration. Bennington joins Addison, Caledonia, Orange, Rutland, and Windsor counties in exceeding the county minimum of $3.61 per capita to qualify communities in those counties for aid.FEMA staff will tour the six counties beginning on Wednesday with representatives of VEM, the Vermont Agency of Transportation, Regional Planning Commissions, and individual towns to verify damage estimates. Groups will likely be in the field in the early afternoon. Note that not all towns with damage need to be visited to qualify for assistance. FEMA needs to verify enough damage statewide and countywide for a possible Public Assistance disaster declaration, and towns will apply for assistance later.If indicator thresholds are verified, Gov. Phil Scott would forward a formal request for a declaration to President Donald Trump. Once submitted, FEMA will review the request and make a recommendation to the President on whether or not a declaration should be signed.Under a PA disaster declaration, communities would be eligible for 75% reimbursement for response and recovery costs. Those costs include repairs to local roads, public buildings, other municipal assets, and certain costs related to response.Source: Vermont Department of Public Safety 7.11.2017