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Legislature passes $4.5 billion budget, Douglas veto likely

Mon, 05/11/2009 - 7:27am -- tim

The Legislature finally adjourned late Saturday night after passing a $4.5 billion budget. Governor Douglas had urged lawmakers to reduce appropriations to ease the tax burden during this recession. Legislative leaders countered that the recession itself was leading to greater demand on state services because of unemployment and that state spending, much like the federal stimulus plan intends, could help support the economic activity.

EPA sends $2 million in brownfield clean-up funds to Vermont

Mon, 05/11/2009 - 6:29am -- tim

Vermont s congressional delegation announced today $2 million in Brownfields grants for the state.  Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said the Environmental Protection Agency funding, $400,000 of which came from the economic stimulus plan, will go towards clean up of and reinvestment in properties blighted by hazardous waste. 

FairPoint customer service call center returns to service

Fri, 05/08/2009 - 10:27am -- tim

At approximately 2:30 p.m. today FairPoint Communications restored access to its customer service call centers. Customers are now able to call the Consumer, Small Business or Repair Service Centers. The company appreciates its customers patience while they worked through this problem. FairPoint will increase the number of technicians working over the weekend to respond to any backlog of customer service reports resulting from the call center outage.

Legislative session races to finish on back of $4.5 billion budget bill

Fri, 05/08/2009 - 10:13am -- tim

The Vermont House is expected to take up the $4.5 billion state budget either today or tomorrow, with a possible legislative adjournment tomorrow. However, Governor Douglas is expected to veto the budget bill if it comes to him in its current form, which is also expected. Even though the bill cuts income taxes across the board ($22 million total reduction), the governor has stated that he does not support the increase in overall spending and that total taxes are increasing $26 million, most of which is being bourn by the statewide property tax.

US Labor Dept distributes $101 million for Trade Adjustment Assistance

Fri, 05/08/2009 - 9:26am -- tim

The US Department of Labor today released $101 million to help states provide career training, job search and relocation assistance to U.S. workers who lose their jobs for trade-related reasons. Vermont's total base allocation is $328,825. New Hampshire's allocation is $564,903. Provided to 41 states, this money is the balance of the fiscal year (FY) 2009 Trade Adjustment Assistance(TAA) base allocations that were announced in October 2008. The Labor Department previously had provided $88 million for TAA activities under the federal government's continuing resolution.

Border ID changes coming June 1

Fri, 05/08/2009 - 9:18am -- tim

With new border crossing requirements coming on June 1, state officials are urging businesses to get enhanced identification cards for employees who regularly travel to Canada. Starting June 1, the federal Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) will require WHTI-approved documents for entry to the United States. That means that most U.S. citizens entering the United States by sea or land will need a passport, passport card, or WHTI-compliant document like a Vermont Enhanced Drivers License (EDL).

Vermont tourism officials anticipating strong summer

Fri, 05/08/2009 - 9:13am -- tim

tourism officials are expecting an excellent summer travel season and will launch an aggressive marketing campaign in major metropolitan markets to draw more visitors to the state. Commissioner Bruce Hyde pointed to the continued steady performance of the Rooms and Meals tax as one of the positive indicators of the strength of Vermont’s tourism industry, despite the current economic climate.  Rooms and Meals tax revenues to date for fiscal year 2009 are down by only 3 percent compared with the same period in 2008, a year that had the largest increase in those revenues in a decade.

Legislature using budget bill to save St Johnsbury prison

Fri, 05/08/2009 - 5:15am -- tim

The Legislature has included in the state budget language intended to keep open the prison in St Johnsbury. Among the Douglas Administration's budget reduction proposals was closing the Northeast Regional Correctional Facility and laying off most of the employees. The inmates likely would be sent to prisons out of state. It costs the state less to pay another state to house inmates than to incarcerate them in Vermont. The House and Senate Appropriations Conference Committee included language that would require the governor to get legislative approval before he could close the prison.

Vermont Labor Department extends unemployment benefits

Fri, 05/08/2009 - 4:54am -- tim

The Department of Labor announced today that it will begin paying Federal-State extended unemployment compensation program benefits (EB) next week. EB provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment compensation to eligible unemployed workers. Vermont is joining 26 other states that have triggered on the EB program. As part of the federal stimulus package, the federal government will pick up all of the EB costs.

Army awards General Dynamics $37 million Bradley contract

Thu, 05/07/2009 - 11:09am -- tim

The US Army Contracting Command in Picatinny Arsenal, NJ, has awarded General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products an order of approximately $37 million to produce reactive armor tile sets for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Deliveries are expected to begin in December 2009. General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products is a business unit of General Dynamics. The program will be managed from General Dynamics' Burlington Technology Center in Vermont.

Chloramine study bill passes Senate, House agreement expected

Thu, 05/07/2009 - 11:02am -- tim

Yesterday, on a voice vote, the Vermont Senate passed legislation that studies alternatives to chloramine in drinking water. The bill, a revised version of H. 80, outlines an engineering study of disinfection methods that the Champlain Water District (CWD) and other water districts in the state could use instead of processes that rely on chloramine as a secondary disinfectant.