Statehouse Headliners: New Senate budget in works, VT emissions going up, and candidates file for election

By Guy Page

Three Vermont Senate committees expect to produce a 2019 budget for the House to consider on Friday. It would replace the budget Gov. Phil Scott vetoed last week. A key senator told Headliners the new budget would:

  1. Insure public school employees on the state employee health care insurance plan, which the governor wanted but didn’t get last year. This would create substantial savings, the senator – regarded as a centrist Democrat – said during the lunch break today.
  2. Keep the residential tax rate level with this year, as the governor requests.
  3. Increase the non-residential rate from $1.53 (per $100 of property value) to $1.58. The governor wants to keep the non-res rate at $1.53. The budget vetoed last week had a $1.59 non-res rate. The non-residential property tax raises about 30 percent of all property taxes and includes rental and farm properties. Supporters of the level non-residential tax say an increase will burden farmers and low-income renters.

Legislators have been asking how a July 1 government shutdown — which could happen without a budget deal — would affect state services. A senior administration official told Headliners today the administration has not prepared that list yet, but will prepare and distribute one if it becomes necessary. Yet another senior official said the Legislature could, if necessary, avoid a shutdown by continuing spending in 2019 at the 2018 level.

Blockchain law welcomes “personal information protection companies” to Vermont

Gov. Scott Thursday, June 21 will sign into law S.269, the “blockchain bill.” Blockchain technology is described in an April, 2018 Vermont Public Radio story as a networked business ledger system that is virtually impossible to hack. The new law – brainchild of Norwich Prof. and Berlin/Northfield House candidate (D) Jeremy Hansen of Berlin and Burlington Rep. Jean O’Sullivan – allows “personal information protection companies” to register with the Department of Financial Regulation.

Vermont, without carbon-free Vermont Yankee, not meeting emissions goals

They still don’t get it.

The Vermont Energy Action Network (EAN) reports that Vermont isn’t meeting its carbon emissions reduction goals. In fact, emissions have increased since 1990. To reverse this disturbing trend, the EAN wants more renewable power, ride sharing, pellet stoves, and lots more wind and solar power.

What it doesn’t want is more emissions-free nuclear power. This is inexplicable from a greenhouse gas reduction point of view. Until 2012, Vermont Yankee met a third of Vermont’s electricity demand while emitting virtually zero emissions (and at a very low, fixed cost). Nevertheless, Vermont environmental groups pushed hard to close Vermont Yankee, and when the plant closed in 2014 (mostly due to the very low cost of natural gas) they did not seek power from the region’s other nuclear plants, which are the largest sources of emissions-free power in New England.

The environmentalist’s go-to argument against nuclear power in Vermont is the supposedly insoluble problem of spent fuel storage. But as noted recently in Headliners, the new owners of Vermont Yankee expect to move the plant’s spent fuel out-of-state by 2030.

Who’s running? Who’s not? Candidates file for primary, general election

An up-to-date list of major party candidates for the August 14 primary election and independents for the November 6 general election can be seen on the Vermont Secretary of State website. A partial list of legislators not seeking re-election includes:

Senate – Claire Ayer, Addison; Carolyn Branagan, Franklin; Peg Flory, Rutland; Francis Brooks, Washington.

House – Janssen Wilhoit, St. Johnsbury; Richard Lawrence, Lyndonville; Helen Head, S. Burlington; Jim Condon, Colchester; Don Turner, Milton (running for Lt. Governor); Corey Parent, St. Albans (running for State Senate); Stephen Beyor, Highgate; Bernie Juskiewicz, Cambridge; Bob Frenier, Chelsea; Gary Viens, Newport City; Doug Gage, Rutland City; Patti Lewis, Berlin; David Deen, Westminster.

Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

One thought on “Statehouse Headliners: New Senate budget in works, VT emissions going up, and candidates file for election

  1. Based in the latest Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Update 1990 – 2013, issued July 2017, it appears there has been an increase in CO2eq emissions from 8.378 million metric ton in 1990 to 8.745 MMt in 2013. The numbers for 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 likely were about the same as 2013.

    NOTE: It is truly amazing Germany, with a hugely more complex economy than Vermont, has up-to-date CO2eq data for 2017, but Vermont only manages to come up with 2013 data in July 2017.

    – If the CO2eq of wood burning is added, the CO2eq becomes about 10.0 MMt in 1990 and 10.8 MMt in 2013.
    – If Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry, LULUCF, are subtracted, the CO2eq becomes 5.2 MMt in 1990 and 6.350 MMt in 2013.

    The CO2eq sequestering of the forests has decreased, because of:

    1) Less forest acreage, due to encroachments and development.
    2) Increased clearcutting, roads, and other development within forests, which reduces sequestering, CO2eq/acre.
    3) About 50% of standing timber being of low quality and suitable only for burning.

    Vermont CO2eq Increased Despite Huge RE Investments for 23 years: Vermonters and out-of-state entities have spent at least $5.0 billion trying to reduce CO2eq emissions from 1990 – 2013, about 5.0/23 = $220 million per year, including Efficiency Vermont.

    That total includes federal and state grants, various subsidies, reduced tax collections due to rapid depreciation write offs, and investments by private and government entities. The money was spent on insulation and sealing, new heating systems, and renewable energy programs.

    However, it appears Vermont’s CO2eq reduction efforts have been unsuccessful so far. For at least a decade, I have been advocating net-zero-energy and energy-surplus housing and other buildings and gas-guzzler taxes to get higher mileage vehicles off the road. Those two sectors contribute about 70% of Vermont’s CO2eq. See table 1.

    Electricity CO2eq was only 9.26% of the 8.745 MMt in 2013, but wind and solar has been receiving most of government attention, because lucrative grants, various generous subsidies and reduced tax collections due to rapid depreciation write-offs were available to politically well-connected, high-income people, if they invested in such projects.

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