All the latest news, press releases, and commentary from Heidi E. Scheuermann.

January 21, 2016

Frustrations are mounting in Montpelier, and throughout the state, over the real-life consequences of the ill-advised and poorly thought out education reform law passed last year (Act 46).  While the intention of the law was clearly to merge school districts and eliminate much of the little amount of local control we have left as communities, many other challenges are now rearing their heads.

Just seven months ago, Governor Shumlin and legislative leaders were patting themselves on the back for the excellent work they did on education reform.  Now, however, that tone has changed.  The challenges resulting from the spending threshold has seen the Governor call for a repeal and others for significant modifications to it, and the disingenuous assertion that school choice would be maintained under merged districts still have communities reeling.

Now, a new wrinkle has emerged. 

January 7, 2016

Vermont State Legislators returned to Montpelier this week facing significant, although not unexpected, challenges.

For at least the last seven plus years, we have gone from budget crisis to budget crisis, yet have never addressed the underlying structural deficiencies in our state government.  In what has become the new normal, we face tens of millions of dollars in budget deficits each year because we have increased state spending by 5% year over year, while our revenues have grown at less than 2%.

And, this year is no exception.

The first challenge is to resolve a $40 million hole in the current year’s budget, the majority of which is in the troubled Medicaid program, due to a higher than anticipated caseload and the 53rd week of this year that the Shumlin Administration purposefully excluded from its budget development last year.

Even more troubling, however, is the almost $60 million budget gap in Fiscal Year 2017.  How to address this challenge is the question now.  Will it be broad cuts to programs?  Will it be increased taxes and fees?  Will it be a combination of both?

May 28, 2015

I am pleased to report that we concluded the session with a sound economic development bill.  While not a comprehensive, long-term strategy for economic growth, the bill includes several provisions that will, indeed, move the economic dial here in Vermont. 

1) Necessary changes to the Vermont Economic Growth Incentive to ensure more Vermont companies are able to take advantage of this program that has more than proved its worth in helping to create jobs;

2) The elimination of the sales tax on prewritten software accessed remotely (cloud tax);

3) A first-time homebuyer down payment assistance program to help young professionals around the state into home ownership through the creation of a revolving loan fund;

4) An economic development branding and marketing initiative to complement and supplement our tourism marketing efforts - including a $200,000 appropriation to create and implement it; 

5) A Vermont-Quebec Enterprise Initiative to recruit and expand into Vermont Canadian businesses interested in a US location - including a $100,000 appropriation to fund the program; and

6) An increase in our Licensed Lender limit from $75,000 to $250,000.