Bob Kinzel

Host, Reporter

Bob is a veteran Vermont journalist, specializing in political reporting. He is based in VPR’s Capital Bureau located across the street from Vermont’s Statehouse. Prior to joining VPR full time in 2002, Bob ran the Vermont News Service for 21 years. The service provided daily local news for eleven stations, including VPR. Bob started the News Service following a stint as news director for WNCS.

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Toby Talbot / AP

The governor and legislative Democrats still can’t agree on tax policy. That means the legislative session will continue into next week.

The question facing Democratic leaders on the tax plan was whether or not they wanted to directly challenge Governor Peter Shumlin.

Under the proposal, some personal income tax deductions would be capped, and a minimum tax rate for people who earn more than $125,000 would be put into place and the new revenue would be used to lower all of Vermont’s marginal income tax rates.

End Of Life Bill Recap

May 10, 2013

It was an intense week in the Vermont Senate over the debate on the End of Life bill – and there were many times when the outcome was totally in doubt. VPR reporter John Dillon has been following the story and explains the twists and turns it's taken from the Senate, to the House, and back and forth again.

Legislative leaders are working on a new tax plan that could put Governor Peter Shumlin in an awkward position.

For most of the session, the tax committees at the Statehouse worked on a plan to raise new revenue by capping income tax deductions and by imposing a minimum 3 percent tax rate for everyone who makes more than $125,000.

But the plan seemed to be dead when the Governor and Legislative leaders announced a deal to balance the state budget without raising any taxes.

AP/Toby Talbot

Fri 5/10/13 at Noon & 7PM The legislative session is in its final days and the fate of a number of bills will be decided soon. On the next Vermont Edition, our guest is House Speaker Shap Smith. We discuss the latest on a budget plan that would lower taxes for many people, marijuana decriminalization and legislation to restrain education spending.

Also, VPR's John Dillon recaps the strange twists and turns taken by a bill that supporters had hoped would  allow what they call "death with dignity" and what opponents call "physician assisted suicide."

Before the legislative session ends, lawmakers are expected to consider two important tax bills that deal with education spending and the financing of the state’s health care Exchange.

Big increases in school spending are expected over the next two years and lawmakers are looking at ways to encourage towns to limit their budget growth.

Currently, if a town spends 25 percent above the statewide average, a sizeable penalty is imposed. Under a bill passed by the House, this threshold would be reduced to 21 percent over several years.     

VPR/Kirk Carapezza

Governor Peter Shumlin and Legislative leaders have agreed on a plan to balance next year’s budget without raising new taxes but some changes to the income tax could still happen.

For weeks the Administration and legislative leaders have been negotiating over the size of next year’s budget and the tax package that would be needed to support the budget plan.

Then, at the end of last week, they got the unexpected good news that revenues for April were $16 million higher than expected.

Senator Patrick Leahy says he plans to introduce an amendment to the immigration overhaul bill that would provide new rights for same-sex couples.

Leahy is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, and he expects his panel will consider hundreds of amendments to the immigration bill.

AP/Toby Talbot

Fri 5/3/13 Noon & 7pm The 2013 Legislative session is winding down and the fate of many key issues will be decided in the next few weeks. Friday on Vermont Edition, we get a status update on issues like taxes, marijuana decriminalization and end of life care with Statehouse reporters Peter Hirschfeld of the Vermont Press Bureau and VPR’s John Dillon.

The Senate has rejected a plan to raise income tax rates on wealthy Vermonters to help pay for next year’s budget.

Part of the Senate’s $10 million tax plan includes a provision to impose a tax on bottled water and satellite TV services. Washington senator Anthony Pollina argued that these taxes are regressive so he proposed higher tax rates on wealthy people.

“So when we talk about how we should not ask people with great wealth to pay more because they’re already paying too much, when you look at it as a share of their income they are paying less than others are.”

The Senate has passed a tax bill that raises $10 million in new revenue but it faces the strong opposition of Governor Peter Shumlin.

With very little debate or opposition, the Senate gave its strong support to its 2013 tax bill. The legislation uses four primary sources to raise the additional revenue.

It caps the amount of mortgage interest that can be deducted on the income tax, it imposes a minimum 3 percent tax for all people who earn more than $125,000, it applies the sales tax to bottled water and it places a tax on satellite TV services.

Vermont lawmakers are trying to wrap up their 2013 legislative session, with the hope of adjourning in early May.

Here’s a look at what’s been accomplished and what’s coming up in the next few weeks.

-Gas tax.  Both the House and Senate approved a gas tax, and so it will increase on May 1. Lawmakers favored a change to a sales tax on gas, rather than a per gallon increase. Many supported the bill because they wanted to take advantage of $56 million in federal matching funds.

Toby Talbot / AP

According to a new report, the effort to restrain the growth of health care costs in Vermont is being undermined by the government’s failure to properly reimburse health care providers.

The report, released by the Green Mountain Care Board, shows that health care costs grew in Vermont by just 1.5 percent in 2011 but the cost of health care insurance grew several times that rate.

Anya Rader-Wallack is the chair of the board. She thinks a slow economy in 2011 reduced demand for health care services.

All three members of Vermont's Congressional delegation strongly oppose a new GOP tax plan
Toby Talbot / Associated Press/File

Internet sales tax, immigration reform, gun control....Congressman Peter Welch joins us for the whole hour today. Email vermontedition@vpr.net or post your comments or questions for the congressman here.

VPR/Bob Kinzel

Governor Peter Shumlin and the Senate Finance committee are on a collision course concerning a new tax package.

The Governor didn’t like the tax package that was passed by the House last month and he doesn’t think m

uch of the proposal being crafted by the Senate Finance committee.

The committee’s draft plan caps mortgage interest deductions on the income tax, it creates a new minimum income tax rate and it imposes the sales tax on bottled water.

The Governor made it clear that he opposes the committee’s approach.

For years, House Democrats have been very reluctant to consider changes to Act 68, the state’s education funding law, but projections of double digit increases in spending over the next two years have changed the debate at the Statehouse.

Late Wednesday afternoon, by a vote of 110 to 24, the House give its preliminary approval to a bill that’s designed to slow down the growth of education spending in the future.

Bristol Rep. Dave Sharpe said the time has come to make some changes to the state’s education financing system

The Vermont House will soon consider an end of life bill that is very different from legislation that passed the Senate earlier this session.

When the Senate passed this bill several weeks ago, a 20 page bill was amended to just a single page during the floor debate.

The original bill contained a detailed process before a terminally ill person could request life ending medication from a physician. The amended version eliminated the process and granted doctors and family members immunity from prosecution for supplying the drugs.

House committees are rewriting a bill about end-of-life care that the Senate previously scaled back.

The House Human Services Committee voted seven-to-four in favor of the bill that would allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with a prescription medication.

Rochester Representative Sandy Haas says the committee put in safeguards that members of the Senate say are necessary.

As the Legislature struggles to put together a plan to raise new revenue, it could get an unexpected gift from Congress that would boost revenue in Vermont by at least $20 million.

Currently, Internet retailers like Amazon, don’t have to impose a state sales tax unless the company has a physical presence in the state.

Many small retailers have complained that this gives Amazon an unfair price advantage and state officials are upset because they lose revenue.

Toby Talbot / AP

It’s likely that Vermonters will pay more for gas and diesel fuel in about 10 days.

That’s because the Senate approved legislation increasing those taxes, and legislative leaders are seeking quick compromise with the House.

That’s because they want the tax hikes to be in place at the beginning of May.

The vote in the Senate was 23-5.        

The Senate plan imposes a 4 percent sales tax on gasoline. Senate Transportation Chairman Dick Mazza says it’s critical to move away from the current per-gallon tax because of declining gas sales.

Legislative leaders have put a bill raising the gas tax on a fast track for passage because they want the legislation to go into effect on May 1.

There’s little doubt that lawmakers are going to increase the state gas tax this year, the question is by how much.

Because gas sales have fallen by 30 million gallons in the last 7 years, both the House and Senate want to shift away from the current per gallon tax and towards a sales tax on the price of gas.  Each chamber is seeking the equivalent of roughly an 8 cent increase in the tax.

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