CIGNA Healthcare,by Alan Panebaker vtdigger.org Cigna, a major health insurer of large businesses in Vermont, is on the hook for more than $2 million that it must return to its customers in the state under a provision of the federal health care law.According to numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 4,636 Vermonters will receive a rebate ‘averaging out to $506.04 a person (or $807 per family).The rebate is required under a section of the federal Affordable Care Act which requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent (or 85 percent in the large group market which is generally insurance through large employers) on medical care.If insurance companies do not meet this requirement, they have to refund the portion of the premium that exceeded the 20 or 15 percent limit on things like administrative expenses.Companies insuring Vermonters in the small group and individual markets met the requirement and did not have to refund any money to their customers.Cigna was the only insurance company that had to refund money to Vermonters. It covers the â large group’market of employers who employ 51 or more people. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Vermont had the highest average per-person rebate for that market.Steve Kimbell, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, said he was surprised to learn insurers in Vermont did not meet the requirement.BISHCA Commissioner Steve Kimbell. VTD file photo/Josh Larkinâ As far as I knew, all our major carriers were under [the threshold],’Kimbell said.The state regulators may not have been aware of the issue because it occurred in the large group market. Kimbell said the state regulates the individual and small group insurance markets more closely than the large groups because it requires â community rating’for those markets ‘requiring insurance companies to charge the same premiums for people regardless of how healthy or old they are.The larger groups use â experience rating’where insurance companies can charge a different rate for different people based on differences in their demographics, past health care utilization, medical status and other factors.Kimbell said the department was looking into what businesses this will affect.Nationwide, insurance companies in the large group market are required to return $386 million in rebates, which will go to employers who will in turn return the money to their employees.Anya Rader Wallack, chair of the Green Mountain Care Board, which oversees health care reform in the state, said the failure to meet the federally set ratio could be a result of people seeking less medical care.At the beginning of the year, insurance companies predict how much they will spend on medical care, so a decrease in utilization of health care, which the state has been seeing, could shift that balance to mean a higher percentage went to things other than medical care.â Itâ s a result of a carrier spending less than predicted on actual payments to providers,’Rader Wallack said. â To call it excess administrative expenses I guess is one way of looking at it. The way I look at it is predictions of actual health care expense were much lower than anticipated.âA spokeswoman for Cigna verified the amount owed to Vermonters was a little over $2.3 million. She said Thursday afternoon she was unsure why Cigna had failed to meet the federal requirement.The company must pay the rebate by August 1. Kimbell said it will affect 27 companies in Vermont. As of Thursday afternoon, the Department of Financial Regulation was looking into who those were. In a joint statement, Vermont’s congressional delegation, Senators Leahy andSanders and Representative Welch said, â Insurance premiums should go toward providing care to people who get sick. Thatâ s simply common sense.âNationwide, 12.8 million Americans will benefit from $1.1 billion in rebates under the 80/20 standard. The medical loss ratio or 80/20 rule is a part of the controversial federal health care law which the US Supreme Court could strike down altogether next week.The court issued opinions Thursday morning, but the ruling on the Affordable Care Act was not one of them. Observers expect a decision by next Thursday.Twenty-six states challenged the constitutionality of the national health care law, arguing the law infringed upon states’rights and individual liberties. They contended the federal government could not compel citizens to purchase health insurance under what is called the â individual mandate.â June 21, 2012 vtdigger.org
Embracing their shared commitment to Vermont’s sustainable food economy, F. H. Gillingham & Sons General Store and Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company announced today they are partnering to produce and market Gillingham Vermont Heritage Cheddar, a distinctive new brand based on 126 years of tradition in Vermont. The first result of this joint effort is an all-natural artisan cheddar cheese, which is made using 100% Vermont milk and will be marketed regionally and nationally. About F.H. Gillingham & Sons General StoreF.H. Gillingham & Sons General Store opened its doors in 1886, carrying necessities as well as treasures, and the founder’s guarantee behind every item: ‘Your money’s worth or your money back.” Today, 126-years later, Gillingham’s is located in a 200-year-old building designated as a National Historic Landmark at 16 Elm Street in the very heart of downtown Woodstock, Vermont. The store is still owned and operated by Frank Henry Gillingham’s descendants, Frank and Jireh Billings. www.gillinghams.com(link is external). ‘We have been and always will be so proud to be a home-grown Vermont-based business,’said Jireh Billings, one of the founding family’s proprietors of F.H. Gillingham. ‘While we have a long history and are one of the oldest of Vermont’s general stores, we never stop looking for new ways to bring quality Vermont products to our local customers and those located around the globe. Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company’s use of 100% Vermont milk, for example, was just one of the many reasons we decided to move ahead with this venture. Both companies share a desire to elevate the state’s sustainable food model. ‘ About Vermont Farmstead Cheese CompanyOnly 100 percent Vermont milk is used to create Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company’s artisanal and farmstead cheeses and specialty food products. The company was conceived and founded as a community-based effort to save a local farm in South Woodstock. For more information, visit www.vermontfarmstead.com(link is external) Source: F.H. Gillingham & Sons 7.23.2012 Another prominent lawmaker, U.S. Representative Peter Welch said, ‘It’s always exciting to see businesses work together to help attract visitors to our state and share Vermont’s heritage.’ The new artisan Gillingham Vermont Heritage Cheddar will be available for consumers in mid August in Gillingham’s Woodstock store and on their website (gillinghams.com), with availability in other retail stores anticipated in early September. A portion of the profits from sales of Vermont Heritage Cheddar will be donated to the Vermont Dairy Foundation, a charity specifically established by Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company to help struggling Vermont dairy farmers. Both organizations are deeply rooted in the Woodstock community, with Vermont Farmstead’s dairy farm and Gillingham’s retail operations located just a few miles apart. ‘We have had a close bond with F.H. Gillingham ever since we founded our creamery,’said Farmstead board member Vince Galluccio. ‘We are very excited to begin producing and selling the Gillingham Vermont Heritage Cheddar with a deep-rooted legacy of sustainability and quality. Gillingham’s is a true, traditional, time-tested general store, with 126 years of history in Vermont cheese and specialty food sales. Their loyalty and commitment to the state’s economy and agribusiness runs deep.’he added. Governor Peter Shumlin helped announce the new venture, stating: ‘As Governor and a small business owner, I find it extremely rewarding to see local businesses coming together to produce and market a high quality product that is so inherently ‘Vermont’in its origins, and yet will have such a broad regional and national appeal.’ The Governor is no stranger to Woodstock’s F.H. Gillingham & Sons and Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company. Last year he visited the Farmstead’s dairy operations and helped make a batch of the Company’s farmstead cheddar cheese.
Governor Shumlin appointed Mark Perrin, a resident of Middlebury, to the State Board of Education on April 12, 2013 to serve a six year term (2013-2019). Perrin owns and operates Green Peppers Restaurant and Creek Road Farm with his wife, Donna. He has served on local school boards since the mid-1990s, and is a strong believer in life-long learning. Perrin has been actively involved in the community by serving on the Chamber of Commerce Board, Workforce Investment Board, and Middlebury Business Association Board. ‘ This is a great opportunity to take what I’ ve learned from life and to learn from others to positively impact education. It is an honor to be a part of the Board,’ said Perrin after attending his first State Board of Education meeting today. ‘ There are diverse backgrounds and a depth of knowledge on the Board; it was impressive to see public education at work. I look forward to the challenge and to being a productive part of the process.’ The State Board of Education meets monthly; its discussions focus on policy concerning the education of Vermont students and assuring equal access for all Vermont students to a quality education. The Vermont State Board of Education currently has eleven members:Stephan Morse, Chair, Newfane (term through 2017)Sean-Marie Oller, Co-Chair, Bennington (term through 2017)Lachlan Francis, Co-Chair & Student Rep, Putney (term through 2014)Laura Harris, Student Rep, Williston (term through 2013)Krista Huling, Jeffersonville (term through 2015)Bonnie Johnson-Aten, Montpelier (term through 2018)Margaret MacLean, Peacham (term through 2015)Bill Mathis, Brandon (term through 2015)Stacy Weinberger, Burlington (term through 2019)Mark Perrin, Middlebury (term through 2019)Armando Vilaseca, Secretary of Education More information about the Vermont State Board of Education, including meeting schedules and materials, can be found online: http://education.vermont.gov/new/html/mainboard.html(link is external).
US Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Congressman Peter Welch Wednesday announced that six Vermont organizations will be receiving a share of $1.8 million from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help assess, clean up, and reuse polluted industrial sites. Leahy, Sanders and Welch said the EPAs Brownfields Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup grant program has helped dozens of Vermont communities turn old contaminated industrial sites into parks, housing, and new business opportunities — creating jobs and cleaning up the environment. The EPA awarded the following organizations grants Wednesday:· City of Burlington: A $200,000 grant to enable the City of Burlington to work with the community and other stakeholders to develop an area-wide plan and implementation strategy for the Railyard Enterprise brownfield area.· New England Youth Theater, Brattleboro: Two $200,000 grants totaling $400,000 to clean up two adjoining sites, 100 Flat Street and 56 Elm Street. · Northwest Regional Planning Commission, St. Albans: Two $200,000 assessment grants totaling $400,000 for use across Franklin and Grand Isle Counties to help communities complete environmental site assessments in preparation of clean up.· Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission, Windsor: A $200,000 assessment grant which will be used across Southern Windsor County to complete environmental site assessments and to create clean up plans.· Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Montpelier: Two $200,000 assessment grants totaling $400,000 for use statewide to complete environmental site assessments and to create clean up plans. · Windham Regional Commission, Brattleboro: Two $200,000 grants totaling $400,000 to conduct environmental site assessments in Windham County.In a joint statement, Leahy, Sanders and Welch said: Vermont communities have hundreds of former industrial sites that remain unused because of development obstacles such as pollution. These grants help these communities turn lemons into lemonade, turning underused industrial wastelands into community assets where people can work, live and play.WASHINGTON (WEDNESDAY, May 8) Congressional delegation
by Anne Galloway May 9, 2013 vtdigger.org On Tuesday, Governor Peter Shumlin and legislative leaders agreed to eliminate any new General Fund taxes this year, effectively killing a number of provisions in the miscellaneous tax bill, H.528.A day later, however, lawmakers found a way to give the bill some heft. They are considering a net neutral proposal that would take the state a few steps closer toward eliminating deductions, and in the view of the committee, making the tax code fairer for middle class Vermonters.Most states tax residents based on adjusted gross income: only eight states, including Vermont, tax residents based on taxable income, or the amount taxpayers report after they have claimed deductions.The tax conference committee is taking a middle of the road route. Instead of going straight to AGI, and eliminating all deductions, they are looking at a cap on itemized deductions (2.5 times the standard deduction, or $29,750 total for a married couple), offering only the standard deduction and capping mortgage deductions at $12,000 (with a 3 percent minimum effective rate for Vermonters who earn more than $125,000). In the first two aforementioned proposals, the tax rates would be compressed to four and the top marginal rate would drop from 8.95 percent to 8.7 percent.In all three models, there is no effective change in the total amount of revenues generated. Thats why the lawmaker say it is a net neutral proposal.The basic idea isnt new: It is an extrapolation of the Vermont Blue Ribbon Tax Structure Commissions proposal from three years ago.Rep. Janet Ancel, chair of House Ways and Means and a former tax commissioner, has been working with her committee on drawing up proposals of this sort ever since. Sen. Tim Ashe, chair of Senate Finance, is interested in making the tax code more equitable.Though the proposals raise no new taxes in the aggregate, in the particulars there are winners and losers. The winners are middle class Vermonters who see a slight decrease in their tax burden; the losers are upper income Vermonters who would pay a bit more.Sue Allen, the governors press secretary, said the proposed income tax changes are not within the parameters of the no new tax deal.When Shumlin was asked about details of the deal at his weekly news conference, he wouldnt talk about specifics and whether net neutral policy changes would be subject to his veto pen. Im encouraged that legislative leadership has come to consensus with me that we not raise taxes beyond the gas tax this year, and my view is that while theres been some great work done on both sides â ¦ our job now is to complete the business of the session and come back next year ready to continue conversations, Shumlin said.
by Nat Rudarakanchana May 12, 2013 vermontbiz.com The Vermont House voted on three minor legislative changes before breaking for the weekend; theyll return to wrap up business on Monday and Tuesday.House Judiciary Chair Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg, tweaked an omnibus opiate bill to ensure that hashish is treated similarly to marijuana, regarding criminal consequences for possessing over 5 grams of hash, which is equivalent to two ounces of marijuana.Lippert said he noticed that recently approved Senate legislation didnt provide increasingly harsher penalties for higher amounts of hashish. Under that legislation, he said, someone could possess a ton or a kilo of hashish and still face only a misdemeanor charge.Under current marijuana decriminalization legislation, possession of an ounce of pot results in a civil fine. Possessing an ounce to two ounces is a criminal misdemeanor, while possessing more than two ounces is a felony.Lippert amended the bill, with the support of the House floor, to ensure that between 5 and 10 grams of hash results in a misdemeanor charge, and that over 10 grams of hash results in a felony charge.The amendment couldnt be attached to the marijuana decriminalization bill, its natural home, because there wasnt enough time left in the legislative calendar, said Lippert. Since House Republicans refused to suspend procedural rules to allow enough time for the amendment, they had to tack it onto the omnibus opiate bill.Another minor amendment came to agricultural legislation. The amendment allowed temporary agricultural workers here under a federal H-2A visa to avoid taxes levied by the state, quietly imposed in 2008, but not widely known about until 2012 and in some cases, February 2013.State and federal notices requested back taxes from 2008, too, surprising many farmers, according to Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden.Zuckerman said the taxes were imposed without enough advance notice in the first place, and could deter sorely needed foreign workers from returning to Vermont and working on apple orchards or in other key agricultural areas.There are fewer than 500 H-2A workers in Vermont, according to a fiscal note from the Joint Fiscal Office.U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has tried and failed for years to extend the H-2A visa program to dairy farm workers, who are currently excluded under the federal program.The opiate bill was also amended to compel more frequent checks by doctors of the Vermont Prescription Monitoring System, which tracks the prescribing and distribution of drugs prone to abuse.The Senate allowed the Department of Health more flexibility to set how often doctors could check the database, leading to the policy disagreement.
Public schools throughout Vermont are receiving new classroom supplies just in time for the start of the new school year, thanks to a People’s United Community Foundation $100,000 grant to DonorsChoose.org.People’s United Community Foundation launched a matching campaign with DonorsChoose.org across the People’s United Bank footprint in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week in May. The funding inspired nearly 100 individuals over the course of three months to match $7,000 worth of classroom projects in Vermont. As a result, a total of 19 projects were funded, touching more than 1,000 students across the state.People’s United Community Foundation joined DonorsChoose.org as a matching program partner, supporting initiatives that improve the quality of education in low-to moderate-income school districts throughout the People’s United Bank footprint, from New York to Maine. Through the DonorsChoose.org website, teachers submitted project requests for materials and resources needed to enhance students’ learning experiences. The People’s United Community Foundation grant provided 50% of the costs for eligible classroom projects, with the remainder generously donated by individuals, bringing the total campaign impact in Vermont to $14,000.‘DonorsChoose.org is a wonderful resource for public school teachers who often pay for classroom materials out of their own pocket due to budget cuts and scarce spending,’ said Vincent Santilli, Executive Director of People’s United Community Foundation. ‘We are delighted with the outcome of the campaign and the number of students who will be starting off the school year with the classroom resources they need. We are also very thankful for the tremendous support from individual donors who helped make this possible.’‘Thanks to People’s United Community Foundation, over twenty thousand students across six states received learning materials essential to an excellent education,’ said Charles Best, Founder and CEO, DonorsChoose.org. ‘We are incredibly grateful to People’s United Community Foundation for matching the donation of almost two thousand individuals who opened their wallet to give to a local classroom.’About the People’s United Community FoundationEstablished in 2007, People’s United Community Foundation was formed to help support programs and activities that enhance the quality of life for citizens in the communities that People’s United Bank serves. People’s United Bank, founded in 1842 and serving customers from New York to Maine through a network of 418 branches, is the largest independent bank headquartered in New England. The Foundation places special emphasis on programs designed to promote economic self-sufficiency, education and improved conditions for low-income families and neighborhoods. The funding priorities of the Foundation include community development, youth development, and affordable housing.About DonorsChoose.orgFounded in 2000, DonorsChoose.org is an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need. Public school teachers from every corner of America post request, and individuals can give directly to the ones that inspire them. To date, 152,000 public and charter school teachers have used DonorsChoose.org to secure $187 million in books, art supplies, technology, and other resources that their students need to learn.- See more at: http://vtdigger.org/2013/09/11/peoples-united-community-foundation-campa(link is external)…
Norwich University,Vermont Business Magazine Norwich University has raised $70 million in year two of its five-year, $100 million “Forging the Future” capital campaign. University President Richard W Schneider made the announcement on Saturday to 720 alumni, donors, trustees, faculty and staff at a luncheon held in Kreitzberg Arena. Part of Homecoming festivities held October 1-4, the event launched Norwich’s “Year of Transformation,” the second themed year in the university’s five-year countdown to its 2019 Bicentennial. Norwich welcomed a record 2,000 alumni and guests throughout the weekend.Norwich University’s five-year, Forging the Future capital campaign is timed to culminate during the university’s bicentennial in 2019. Funds will help further enhance the university’s strong financial footing as it steps into its third century of service to the nation.Norwich will use the $100 million to fund Mack Hall, a new, six-story academic building on campus; significantly renovate three academic buildings, Dewey, Webb and Ainsworth Halls; and grow scholarship endowments. Some $6.8M from the Forging the Future campaign has already been used to modernized the Norwich campus library to an epicenter of interactive, collaborative learning.“Nothing transforms people like education, and the Forging the Future campaign is going to transform the educational experience here at Norwich,” said General Gordon R. Sullivan ’59. A former Army Chief of Staff , Sullivan serves as chairman of the Norwich Board of Trustees. “Norwich was where I acquired the knowledge, the skills, the character, and the discipline, to be successful – not just in my military career, but in my life.”Fittingly, the largest campaign in Norwich’s history began with the university’s largest-ever donation. In April 2013, Colonel Jennifer Pritzker, IL ARNG (Ret.) H’07, president of the Tawani Foundation, committed $25 million to the Norwich University bicentennial campaign in a challenge match to current and former university board members.Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in Baccalaureate and Graduate Degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation’s six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). www.norwich.edu(link is external)In fulfillment of Norwich’s mission to train and educate today’s students to be tomorrow’s global leaders and captains of industry, the Forging the Future campaign is committed to creating the best possible learning environment through state-of-the-art academics and world-class facilities. Learn more about the campaign and how to participate in the “Year of Transformation” here: bicentennial.norwich.edu(link is external). Source: Norwich University, Northfield, Vermont. 10.5.2015
by Representative Heidi E Scheuermann (R-Stowe) With just a few weeks remaining until the 2015-2016 Legislative Biennium concludes, various items are still being developed in both the House and Senate. Unfortunately, none of the items being considered will put us back on a path of fiscal responsibility and real economic growth. The Fiscal Year 2017 budget that passed the House raises General Fund spending by 4% this year, meaning a Comparable Annual Growth Rate over the last five years of 4.6%. As most of us clearly understand, this continues to be well above both the rate of inflation and the underlying economic growth in Vermont.In fact, the total budget – excluding federal funds and education spending – is $2.45 billion in FY 2017.(link is external) This is an increase of over $575 million since FY 2011. And, how do we pay for this spending? By instituting additional and higher taxes and fees on Vermont families and businesses over the last six years. The tax and fee increases being proposed this year total $48 million, making a two-year total increase of $96.7 million.(link is external)While the Senate is still considering these various pieces of legislation, I do not expect numbers to change dramatically before everything is finalized.For ten years, I have fought for fiscal responsibility and a smart, comprehensive strategy for economic growth. Right now, however, as I look back on this last year, this biennium, and frankly, the last several years, I can’t help but think of missed opportunities, failed leadership and political agendas that put politics ahead of smart, long term public policy.While we have been able to put together some modest proposals for economic growth over the last several years, they have been overshadowed by the increased cost to Vermonters in taxes, fees, energy, and the already burdensome regulatory process; in addition to the Vermont Health Connect fiasco, and the countless reasons why so many Vermonters just don’t trust our government anymore.And this year, as many of us continue to try to make some additional progress on the economic development front, Governor Shumlin is hanging his leadership hat on the divestiture of our pension funds (on which our state’s retirees rely so much) from coal and Exxon-Mobil assets, and the legalization of marijuana. Regardless of how you feel about these particular issues, they are not what Vermonters have been pleading with us to do. Instead, Vermonters have been asking us to reform state government in order to bring sustainability back; to reform our state’s education funding system to ensure property tax relief; and to put into place policies that will encourage private sector job growth.Rest assured, I will continue to fight for sound public policy through the final weeks of this session, but I am also looking ahead at what we might be able to accomplish in the next biennium. There are many changes coming to Montpelier next year. With open seats for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, and both the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate leaving their posts as well, we can start to right this ship of state, if we have people in there who share our desire to do so.To be clear, we can make a difference! We simply need to get involved!Toward that end, I am hopeful that Vermonters who share my desire, and the desire of so many others, to put us on a path to fiscal responsibility and economic prosperity, consider joining me either by running for office themselves, or by getting involved.If you are interested in becoming involved, please contact me.(link sends e-mail)INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR CONTINUES TO LANGUISHThe Independent Contractor bill, which passed the committee of jurisdiction unanimously on March 10th, continues to languish after the Speaker of the House sent the bill back to our committee for further work.To be clear, we are absolutely committed to working on some of the points of the legislation that big labor (labor unions) finds objectionable, but we have yet to come to consensus on the major sticking points.The concern that I have now is that we have simply lost too much time – that even if we pass a bill in the House, there won’t be enough time for the Senate to consider and approve it.And, if we are simply going to put something forward that “will be important for the next Legislature,” as the Speaker indicates in this article, I would prefer it to be the strongest possible message we can send, not an already compromised position.As I have said many times in the past, I have worked diligently for years, with colleagues from across the political spectrum, to do something that would ensure the many protections for workers historically in place are maintained, while ensuring that we position our state as a place in which the new, independent and collaborative workforce is encouraged to grow and invest.I believed strongly that H 867 did just that. Unfortunately, big labor opposed it, and found an ear that was receptive.Given the lateness of the session, I expect we will know whether we come to some consensus on this bill by the middle of this week.JAY PEAK EB-5 FRAUDThe state’s business and political establishment was rocked last week by federal and state allegations of massive fraud by Northeast Kingdom EB-5 Project developers Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros. The lawsuits allege $200 million in EB-5 investor funds being “misused, ” and an additional $50 million being “misappropriated” by Mr. Quiros for personal use.Since the Jay Peak, Burke and Newport projects began, they have been seen by many as a beacon for economic and job growth in the Northeast Kingdom. And, Mr. Stenger, specifically, became the poster child of successful EB-5 projects – lauded by the political establishment in both Montpelier and Washington.That has all come to a halt now, and with it, at least two of the projects that have yet to get off the ground – the ANC Bio facility, and the downtown Newport Renaissance Block.The good news is that some very important infrastructure is in place for the Kingdom to continue building upon for its economic vitality. From the Jay Peak Expansion to Q Burke, I am confident the people of the Northeast Kingdom will come together to ensure its success.In general, though, this is a truly sad development for the people of the Kingdom, and for all of Vermont. It is absolutely clear that proper oversight of, and real accountability for, these projects was not in place for a very long time. Kudos to Susan Donegan and the team at the Department of Financial Regulation for its diligence in uncovering all of this after the oversight was given to them last year.VERMONT TECHNOLOGY ALLIANCE (vtTA) REPORT RELEASEDI was really pleased to attend last week’s unveiling of the Vermont Technology Alliance Report – “Vermont’s Tech Employment: The Hidden Driver of our Economic Growth.”I have long believed that our technology sector is one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy, and one of the sectors in which we have great opportunity. This report not only substantiates that assumption, but provides us great insight into the total economic impact of the sector.The following from the vtTA Press Release provides some detail about the specific findings:Highlights from the Vermont Technology Alliance Report include:Tech jobs make up 25% of all Vermont employment, representing 77,249 jobs. Vermont’s tech workers earn 63% more compared to the Vermont average wage. A Vermont tech job pays and average annual wage of $72,732, while the average annual Vermont wage is $44,540. This premium generates an additional $280 million for Vermont’s economy. Tech jobs generate an estimated $5.6 billion in wages, representing 40% of all Vermont wages. Tech jobs are growing faster than Vermont’s total employment, with growth of 8.3% over the past ten years compared to the state’s average employment growth of 1.2%. Tech jobs are projected to grow at a 7.5% annual rate from 2014 to 2022, the fastest growing in Vermont.I am hopeful that other legislators and public policymakers read this report to get a full picture of the opportunities that are in front of us.Rep. Heidi E. Scheuermann
Vermont Business Magazine On May 11, 2016, Google announced(link is external) that it will ban advertising for high-interest personal loans, sometimes referred to as “payday loans.” In 2014, as part of a statewide crackdown(link is external) on high-interest lending, the Vermont Attorney General Office’s collaborated with Google. Over the past two years, Vermont identified(link is external) for Google hundreds of online lenders who violated Vermont or other state law by: (1) charging excessive interest, often 300% APR or more; or (2) failing to obtain a license as required by Vermont and other states that regulate personal loans. Consequently, Google disabled advertising for the identified illegal lenders.“I am pleased that Vermont led the states in working with Google to stop online advertising by predatory lenders,” said Attorney General William Sorrell. Now, Google has taken a further step and simply banned advertising for all personal loans that charge over 36% annual interest or require repayment in under sixty days. The ban goes into effect July 13, 2016. Attorney General Sorrell applauded Google’s announcement: “Google’s advertising ban is a critical tool for consumer protection. The ban will prevent consumers from being deliberately targeted by the seller of a deceptive and harmful financial product.”More information on illegal loans is available on the Attorney General’s “Illegal Lending” website(link is external).Vermont AG: May 17, 2016