Governor Shumlin talks taxes, education reform and Medicaid in sprawling budget speech

first_imgVermont Business Magazine Governor Peter Shumlin took to the podium before a joint meeting of the Legislature in the House Chamber this afternoon to outline plans to increase Medicaid payments to providers, with the help of a $90 million payroll tax on every employer; to close a loophole in the income tax of $15 million to help pay off a $94 million budget shortfall in order to balance the FY 2016 Vermont state budget; and to use a carrot-and-stick approach to find a way to increase public education quality while lowering property taxes. He did not explicitly enunciate an immediate way to lower property taxes, but hopes that local communities and the state can develop a partnership to do so. To that end, he suggested the state offer $3 million carrot to help schools consolidate, while at the time holding a stick to ensure that local districts could be forced to close schools if standards are not met. Shumlin acknowledged, to some laughter from legislators, that they might not all agree with such a tactic, but urged them to keep an open mind to every possible solution, because, he warned, if lawmakers do not find a way, voters will take action.Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream(link is external)VERMONT PBS VIDEO. TEXT OF THE ENTIRE ADDRESS IS PRESENTED BELOW.In a detailed address outlining many of the important issues he will seek to address this legislative biennium, Shumlin outlined his fiscal year 2016 budget and Part II of his Agenda for Progress to grow jobs, expand affordability and preserve quality of life for Vermonters.While his proposal to outlaw teachers strikes, as part of the carrot and stick approach to public education, is probably a non-starter in a Democratically controlled Legislature (and it’s doubtful the Legislature even has jurisdiction over a process with federal oversight), and while the cut in low-income heating assistance likewise will probably not see the light of day in any committee room, the Medicaid funding likely will get at least a hearinig. The governor’s single-payer plan wilted under the garrish light of new taxes, which included a massive payroll deducation. But this proposal of a seven-tenths of 1 percent tax (0.7%) on every business will be enticing for two reasons. One is that a bit more than half of the $90 million raised will come from a federal match. And two, it helps lessen a growing problem of cost-shifting to cover Medicaid patients, while providing more incentive for primary care physicians to take on Medicaid patients. The pushback from business might not be as bad as one might anticipate because small businesses who now offer health insurance to their employees could be — and this is how Shumlin presented — less burdened for “doing the right thing” by their employees by covering some or all of their premiums, as less money is needed to be cost-shifted from privately covered individuals.In addition to a balanced budget that closes a $94 million budget gap, the Governor laid out the rest of his aggressive agenda that includes proposals to cut in half the Medicaid cost shift; reduce private health insurance premiums; help get school spending under control; eliminate the cost of an associate’s degree for some Vermont students and provide Vermont employers a pipeline of skilled workers; and increase economic development incentives.All of these proposals are designed to help working Vermonters by growing jobs and economic opportunity for the state.“When you listen to the voices of so many Vermonters, from every corner of our state, from every background, and of every political persuasion, their frustration and uncertainty about their future is clear,” the Governor said.  “We know many of the drivers of this unease: Rising health care costs and rising property taxes, among others, and no corresponding rise in incomes and property values. Many hardworking Vermonters who would be proud to call themselves members of the middle class are left with a feeling that they are treading water or, worse, dipping below the surface.”FISCAL YEAR 2016 BUDGETREACTIONVermont Tech President Dan Smith’s Response:“We are pleased that the Governor has highlighted this strategy. In establishing these employer partnerships, we can align existing state programs in a manner that can help Vermont employers build a pipeline of new workers, at a time when the manufacturing sector in particular reports a workforce that is both aging and scarce. These are good clean jobs and this is an affordable way to attain the necessary degree.This summer, as the state began to frame out the Vermont Strong Scholars program passed in the last legislative session, we recognized an opportunity for alignment between two state programs. A Vermont student, in a Vermont Strong eligible program like mechanical or electrical engineering technology, or software engineering, who enrolled in the Vermont Academy of Science and Technology at Vermont Tech, could be eligible to have tuition for three out of the four semesters of an associates’ degree covered by the state.     The Vermont Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) has been run by Vermont Tech for twenty years and offers Vermont students an alternative senior year of high school, concurrent with their first year of college. The college accepts a discounted tuition rate, paid by the state of Vermont, for VAST-enrolled students. The state pays roughly 3/4 and the college subsidizes by 1/4. Students pay room and board if they live on campus. There are currently 48 students enrolled in VAST at Vermont Tech.The Vermont Strong Scholars program was passed by the legislature last year and it created an obligation for the state to cover the loan forgiveness as envisioned in the program. The Agency of Commerce narrowly crafted the eligible sectors to prioritize key industries and enable accurate projections and manage the scope of the liability. As students complete the program and get reimbursed over time, the state will carry that obligation. The state’s current plan is to work with VSAC to administer the loan forgiveness aspects of the program,” said Dan Smith, the President of Vermont Tech. “If an employer, thinking long term about their workforce in Vermont, is willing to work together with us to recruit, provide an internship and a scholarship to these incoming students, these students can attain an associates’ degree tuition-free.”For more information about the Vermont Academy of Science and Technology, please visit: http://www.vtc.edu/academics/vermont-academy-science-technology-vast(link is external)Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott:“I was encouraged to hear the Governor acknowledge the fact that we are, and have been, spending beyond our means. There was a lot of information in the speech, and it will take some time to gather the facts before delving into too many specific details. For example, during the speech I was having difficulty adding up the cuts proposed versus the additional taxes levied.“There were a number of areas within the speech where I do have concerns, one being that, while I agree we have a structural problem with the Medicaid cost shift, I’m hesitant to fund the ‘fix’ through a payroll tax. Opening the door to even a small increase will, in my opinion, lead us to further tax growth. Once that seed is planted, we have a tendency in this building to over-fertilize, and I fear there will be further proposals to increase taxes on Vermonters and small Vermont businesses, who are already struggling to make ends meet. I am also concerned the Governor may be overly optimistic in regard to negotiating $9 million in savings with the Vermont State Employees Union, as well as the sustainability of leveraging state dollars in order to receive what could be one-time federal money.“However, growing partnerships with Vermont businesses which will in turn grow the workforce, forging a new partnership with Vermont Technical College, and imposing a moratorium on unfunded school mandates are good first steps toward turning the receding fiscal tide.“Affordability, finding ways to grow our economy, and listening to Vermonters must be our top priorities from this day forward. This is something I’ve been talking about for a number of years, and I am thankful that it seems the Governor is in agreement.”House Speaker Shap “The Governor’s budget reflects the tough choices we have to make due to slower than expected revenue growth. In his address, the Governor acknowledged Vermonters’ concerns about the unsustainable cost of health care, burdensome property tax increases, and the need to clean up our waterways. As I noted in my opening session remarks, these are the key priorities of the House. I look forward to working with the Administration to make Vermont the best possible place to work and live, and one that provides opportunity for all Vermonters.”Vermont Association of HospitalsThe Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems welcomed the Medicaid funding plan that Governor Shumlin outlined in today’s budget address, which is a strong step toward making health care more affordable for Vermonters.The plan, as outlined by the Governor, would put significant resources toward addressing what is referred to as the “Medicaid cost shift.” In today’s system, Vermonters who buy insurance on the market have been paying higher rates to make up for shortfalls in the Medicaid program.”As we look to the future of health care reform, a key component of that work is bringing down the cost of care for Vermonters. Reducing the cost shift as Governor Shumlin proposed today is essential to making health care more affordable in our state,” said Bea Grause, CEO and President of VAHHS. “We are committed to working with the Green Mountain Care Board and other health care leaders to make sure that this improvement in Medicaid payments directly benefits Vermonters who purchase insurance.”VAHHS reinforced its commitment to meaningful health care reforms.”The work to reform health care and make it more affordable for Vermonters continues,” Grause added. “Physicians and hospitals are good at taking care of the sick and the injured and that’s work we need to keep doing. At the same time, we need to do a better job helping people stay as healthy as possible. By leading on payment reform, we will make progress this year toward a system where every Vermonter has coverage they can afford, and gets high quality care from the doctor and hospital of their choice.”NFIB/VTThe following statement may be attributed to Shawn Shouldice who serves as NFIB/VT’s State Director in response to Governor Shumlin’s Budget address. “The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB/VT) couldn’t agree more with Governor Shumlin that government should live within a budget equal to (or less than) the rate of inflation. We agree, Vermont must eliminate the cost-shift related to health care. We agree that double digit property tax increases should be addressed, that our economy requires a highly trained workforce and that there as some economic green shoots beginning.“However, NFIB/VT was hoping to hear the promotion of visionary plans from Governor Shumlin for how he would address affordability in Vermont. Rather we heard more of the same; tax increases on businesses, an over-reliance on federal dollars to expand programs, and financial incentives for certain sectors of our economy in hopes of minimizing public criticism.“Access to affordable high-quality health care remains NFIB/VT’s top priority. Governor Shumlin promised to remove the burden of health care from Vermont employers; rather he shifts more and more of the burden to small business. We find an increased payroll tax an insult to our intelligence.“Small businesses already pay an employer assessment to fund Vermont Health Connect (formerly Catamount Health Plan) to the tune of $18 million per year. Now, Governor Shumlin proposes an additional $90 million increase.“On December 17, we applauded Governor Shumlin’s announcement that he would push aside his $2 billion single-payer scheme because he understood the enormous cost would have a negative impact on our economy. Today he said, in his opening remarks, that he’s ‘heard clearly in the election this fall that Vermonters expect more from me and from the state to help improve their lives’. Rather we find instead his calling for more regulation, higher state spending and increased taxes.“Small businesses in Vermont represent 96% of all businesses, while we see some green shoots in our economy; most are still struggling under the high costs of owning and operating their businesses in Vermont. Overall, the outlook Governor Shumlin laid out today will not help small businesses to grow and prosper in our state.”Vermont Human Rights CouncilToday, organizations affiliated with the Vermont Human Rights Council [1], a coalition of disability rights, climate justice, and workers’ rights organizations, released the following statement in response to Governor Shumlin’s budget address:“The purpose of our state budget is to address the fundamental needs of all residents, and to advance dignity and equity. These are common sense goals that reflect the shared values of the people of Vermont. They are also stated in Vermont law (32 V.S.A. § 306a).Yet today we witnessed once again the failure of state government to fulfill this basic obligation. Proposed budget cuts range from libraries to heating assistance, and from wage cuts for state workers to cuts to the Reach Up program, as well as continuing many of the additional cuts made to this year’s budget ($30 million in July and $12 million this month). Gutting public services and programs will harm many people in our state, at the same time as our tax system continues to privilege the wealthy and increases tax breaks for larger businesses.Even though Vermont’s economy is now one of the fastest growing in New England, most people are not benefiting from this. On the contrary, the gap between the rich and the rest of us is widening. Median household income dropped to its lowest level in 10 years, poverty and homelessness are on this rise, and 1 in 6 Vermonters are forced to rely on food stamps to feed their families.The Human Rights Council calls on our elected representatives to recognize that growing inequity in our state is a product of failed policies, and as such is up to legislators to change.Here are just two examples: Vermont tax policy disadvantages low- and middle income people, who pay a greater share of their income in taxes than the wealthy. This unjust burden on the majority of residents has grown over the past few years: middle income people now pay almost 3% more of their income in taxes than the rich, compared to around 2% in 2007. The proposed elimination of the income tax deduction for state income taxes, while a step in the right direction, will not change this significantly.  Growing inequity in the tax system is mirrored by inequity in healthcare financing, as a RAND study released this week reminded us: low- and middle-income residents pay a much greater share of their income for healthcare costs.Our budget and revenue policy can change this, by developing spending initiatives that meet people’s needs and raise revenue equitably. Similarly, equitable public healthcare financing can offer huge financial relief to low- and middle income families. Yet the piecemeal health reform measures announced today fail to address the underlying problem of inequitable healthcare costs. As much as we welcome the long-overdue increase in Medicaid provider payments, along with cost relief for people on Vermont Health Connect – who were kicked off of public healthcare programs when these were eliminated by the Affordable Care Act – we have learned over the years that no single band-aid can cure the systemic flaws of a healthcare system whose goal is not to meet health needs but to generate revenue for a myriad of interests.  As a key budget and revenue issue, healthcare financing appears to have fallen prey to the administration’s refusal to make the wealthy and big businesses pay their fair share in taxes. Instead of offering relief to the smallest businesses and asking big businesses to pay more, based on their ability, the governor now proposes to fund his band-aid measures with a small flat payroll tax – the same type of tax that led him to drop financing reform in the first instance. Due to its regressive nature this tax continues to shield bigger corporations and the wealthy from more equitable taxation.“Vermont needs a budget and a healthcare financing plan that start with people’s needs and raise money equitably to meet those needs,” said James Haslam, director of the Vermont Workers’ Center, “yet every year politicians do just the opposite: cutting the budget, giving tax breaks to large businesses, and defending private healthcare financing that hurts low-income people the most. Why do they not follow Vermont law, which requires us to advance dignity and equity in our state and to provide healthcare as a public good?”Karen Topper, of Green Mountain Self-Advocates, said: “A budget is a document of values. We need our Vermont state budget to ensure that every person counts and is supported to live with dignity, respect and independence.”Workers’ rights are also under attack in this budget proposal: the governor seeks to outlaw educators’ right to strike, cut wages and benefits of state workers, and lower the wage rate requirements for businesses that receive tax incentives.Members of the Human Rights Council emphasize that budgeting must be a participatory, transparent and accountable process that involves the public in a meaningful way and avoids pitting different needs and rights against another. Will Bennington of Rising Tide Vermont said: “The Vermont Human Rights Council works collaboratively because we know that there is no climate justice without migrant justice, no workers rights without disability rights.”The Human Rights Council calls on our elected representatives to change the budget and revenue process by instituting comprehensive and participatory needs assessments and an accountability framework that evaluates public policy decisions using accurate measures of unmet human need.  This year, as in previous years, we request that our representatives recognize that the current goals and processes used in developing the state budget are inadequate. The outcome of the current way of doing things is failing the people of Vermont.”1] The organizations signed onto this statement so far include Green Mountain Self-Advocates, Rising Tide Vermont, and the Vermont Workers’ Center. More will be added over the next 24hrs and posted at www.workerscenter.org(link is external)Public Assets InstitutePoverty, hunger, and homelessness are on the rise in Vermont. Meanwhile, median household income has been steadily declining since before the recession, and the gap between those at the top and everyone else is getting wider. In his budget address, Gov. Peter Shumlin acknowledged some of these struggles that many Vermonters face, but the real test of his spending proposal for the coming year is how well it addresses Vermonters’ basic needs and helps bend the curve on these troubling trends.Strengthening Medicaid with a new payroll tax and matching federal dollars is a step in the right direction toward a fairer way to pay for health care. But the proposed cuts to Reach Up and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) are going to make life much harder, not better, for some of the state’s most vulnerable families. It appears the governor also wants to lower the threshold for the wages a business must pay in order to qualify for tax breaks. Vermont families need jobs with higher, not lower, wages if we hope to reduce income inequality and poverty in the state.The Legislature has committed itself to following fiscal policies that address Vermonters’ needs. We encourage lawmakers to keep that commitment in mind as they take up the governor’s fiscal 2016 budget.- See more at: http://publicassets.org/blog/statement-on-gov-peter-shumlins-fiscal-2016…(link is external)Poverty, hunger, and homelessness are on the rise in Vermont. Meanwhile, median household income has been steadily declining since before the recession, and the gap between those at the top and everyone else is getting wider. In his budget address, Gov. Peter Shumlin acknowledged some of these struggles that many Vermonters face, but the real test of his spending proposal for the coming year is how well it addresses Vermonters’ basic needs and helps bend the curve on these troubling trends.Strengthening Medicaid with a new payroll tax and matching federal dollars is a step in the right direction toward a fairer way to pay for health care. But the proposed cuts to Reach Up and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) are going to make life much harder, not better, for some of the state’s most vulnerable families. It appears the governor also wants to lower the threshold for the wages a business must pay in order to qualify for tax breaks. Vermont families need jobs with higher, not lower, wages if we hope to reduce income inequality and poverty in the state.The Legislature has committed itself to following fiscal policies that address Vermonters’ needs. We encourage lawmakers to keep that commitment in mind as they take up the governor’s fiscal 2016 budget.Vermont’s economy has shown many signs of recovery since the Great Recession. State revenues have rebounded, growing by $175 million between 2011 and 2014 after falling by more than $97 million between 2008 and 2009. This has coincided with increased job growth, a steady decline in the unemployment rate, and a drop in the number of foreclosures. But while Vermont’s economy continues to grow, the growth rate has not been as robust as economists had predicted. In early 2014, the consensus economic forecast was that State revenue would grow by 5 percent over the prior fiscal year. Revenue is now expected to grow by only 3 percent for this fiscal year and general fund revenue growth is expected to remain around 3.5 percent for the next five years.The Governor noted that these realities lead to a simple yet challenging conclusion. “Like a family trying to adjust its budget to meet reality, it is our responsibility as state leaders to match state government spending with Vermonters’ ability to pay,” he said.To meet that challenge, the Governor today laid out a balanced budget that begins to address the structural deficit by continuing to practice fiscal responsibility; reducing reliance on one-time funds; restructuring some state programs while making difficult cuts to others; investing in programs that deliver more to Vermonters in economic opportunity and support than they cost; and raising revenue without asking Vermonters to pay higher income, sales, or rooms and meals tax rates.·       Promote Fiscal Responsibility: To maintain Vermont’s top bond rating and avoid charging current budget challenges to future generations, the Governor’s budget fully funds retirement contributions and debt obligations. It also fully funds the General Fund transfer to the Education Fund, recognizing that Vermonters cannot afford to shoulder additional property tax expenses.·       Reduce Reliance on One-time Funds: The FY2016 proposal relies on $11 million in one-time funds, down from a high of $59 million in FY2012. While federal stimulus funds helped pull Vermont, and many other states, through the Great Recession, it is time to wean the state off those funds in order to chart a fiscally sustainable path forward.·       Find Efficiencies through Restructuring and Difficult Cuts: The Governor’s budget proposes more than $15 million in ongoing savings through the streamlining, consolidating and restructuring of some government services. Among others, this includes the consolidation of some libraries, public safety call centers, the on-site septic program, and the Community High School of Vermont. The budget also cuts some programs such as the state LIHEAP appropriation, instead relying solely on federal funds as neighboring states do. The Governor acknowledged the difficult choices presented in the budget, but said those choices must be made if we are to finally shed the harm of the great recession and put the state on a sustainable fiscal path. “I ask critics of my proposals for restructuring to follow a simple rule:  If you don’t like my recommendations, make your own that achieve equal ongoing savings,” he said.·       Invest in Programs that Deliver Economic Opportunity and Support to Vermonters: Wherever possible, the Governor’s budget makes smart choices by not cutting programs that deliver more to Vermonters in economic opportunity and support than they cost, such as the Vermont Rental Subsidy, the Family Supportive Housing Initiative, and the Emergency Solutions grants. The Governor’s budget does not cut one dime from critical child protection services. In fact, it supports increased staffing and other changes made in response to the tragic deaths of Vermont children last year. The Governor will also lay out proposals this year to strengthen communication, transparency, enforcement and protection in Vermont’s child safety work. Closely related to the issue of child safety is continuing to make progress on addressing and preventing opiate and heroin addiction. While Vermont has made incredible progress, there is more work to do. To that end, the Governor’s budget increases by 16 percent overall drug treatment spending, providing continued support for treatment and recovery centers as well as the statewide rapid intervention program.·       Raise Revenue: To meet a portion of the budget gap, the Governor is proposing to close an income tax loophole that allows Vermonters to deduct from the current year’s state taxes the taxes they paid the previous year. The majority of income tax states already disallow this exemption. Reforming this loophole will cost taxpayers who use it an average of $175 and raise an expected $15.5 million.HEALTH CARE: CUTTING BY HALF THE MEDICAID COST SHIFT AND REDUCING PRIVATE INSURANCE PREMIUMSThe Governor laid out an aggressive health care reform agenda that will continue to make progress on moving to payment for quality outcomes instead of number of procedures, fixing the state’s chronic underpayment of Medicaid which shifts costs and artificially inflates private insurance premiums and increasing access to and affordability of health care for Vermonters. The Governor outlined a five-point plan to make progress towards these goals:·       Pursue the Federal “All Payer” Waiver: Vermont must continue work to become the first state to move from the current quantity based, fee for service system to one that pays providers for the quality outcomes they produce by pursuing an “all payer” waiver with the federal government.  The Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) is working closely with the Administration to submit a waiver application to the federal government that will allow the alignment of how providers are paid across private insurance and public programs to ensure that providers have the right incentives for improving quality and reducing cost. The Governor wants to secure this waiver by January 1, 2017.·       Strengthen the Green Mountain Care Board: To make sure that the Board institutionalizes its early cost containment success, the Governor is asking the legislature to enhance its role as a central regulator so it can treat health care like the public good that it is and ensure that Vermont has an integrated, cost-effective health care system for the long run. Specifically, the Governor wants to give the Board the ability to act where needed to open investigations into pressing issues and problems; programmatic and budget approval of the Vermont Information Technology Leader, VITL, to ensure alignment of health care technology investments with a more integrated, universal statewide system; and the power to approve innovative payment and delivery models promoted by Accountable Care Organizations, physicians, and clinics.·       Invest in Vermont’s Blueprint for Health and Payment Reform: To build on the early success this effort has shown in bending the cost curve while ensuring high quality health care for Vermonters, the Governor’s budget more than doubles payments to Medicaid’s Blueprint providers with a new $4.5 million appropriation, which includes increasing Medicaid’s community health team payments by $1 million and adding $3.5 million to Medicaid medical home payments. The budget also supports Home Health organizations with an additional $1.25 million to help them move forward with payment reform and invests $500,000 to leverage $5 million in federal funds to expand and support community providers such as the Support and Services at Home (SASH) program, Vermont Care Alliance, and others.·       Reduce by Half the Medicaid Cost Shift:  To address the Medicaid cost shift that drives up private insurance premiums by an astonishing $150 million every year, the Governor is proposing to invest $25 million in the latter half of FY 2016, when new insurance rates begin, for payments to health care providers. On an annualized basis, this will mean $50 million in cost shift reduction. To ensure that the cost shift is not further exacerbated by the nearly 20,000 newly insured Vermonters resulting from Vermont Health Connect, the budget also includes $30 million to cover these Vermonters in Medicaid. All of these increases will help compensate Medicaid providers more fairly for the work that they do to keep their patients healthy, stabilizing the entire health care system for the benefit of all.  Together, these increased payments will reduce the current Medicaid cost shift by half. The Governor’s budget proposal includes language to ensure the Green Mountain Care Board with insurers and hospitals will recover the savings created by these increased payments, reducing premiums by up to 5 percent from what they would have been. ·       Cut the Uninsured Rate by Expanding Access and Increasing Affordability: The Governor’s budget sets aside an additional $2 million to help Vermonters pay for their out of pocket health care costs, doubling state funding available to help Vermonters afford to go to the doctor when they are sick, treat their chronic conditions, and pay for their prescriptions through Vermont Health Connect Cost Sharing Reductions. These funds will be targeted to families with income between $48,000 and $72,000 who often feel the burden of high out of pocket costs. The Governor reiterated that he is open to other ideas to increase health care affordability, increase coverage, or provide backstop care for our few remaining uninsured.To pay for these health investments, the Governor is proposing a seven tenths of one percent (0.7 percent) payroll tax on Vermont businesses. Every dollar raised will draw down $1.10 in federal funds, more than doubling the money raised through the payroll tax. In FY2016, the proposal would raise $41 million in state funds matched with an additional $45 million in federal dollars. The money raised from this tax will go into the State Health Care Resource Fund and all of it will be dedicated to reducing the cost shift and improving health care quality and delivery.About $55 million of will be applied directly to the cost shift to reduce private insurance premiums, essentially getting $55 million in relief for $45 million raised in state funds.SCHOOL SPENDING, EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES AND PROPERTY TAXESWith student enrollments down 20 percent since 1998, a 4.6 to 1 staff to student ratio, and property taxes rising fast, the Governor outlined a number of proposals to help address the education spending problem in Vermont while improving education quality, including:·       Release a new online tool developed by the Agency of Education that allows for a clearer understanding of education spending, tax rates by district, and implications of declining enrollment and staffing to inform the conversations at the local level. To see the tool, CLICK HERE(link is external).·       Place a moratorium on any new legislation that adds costs to districts.·       Phase out contradictory, expensive incentives including the small schools grant and the phantom student provision.·       Target construction aid for districts that are actively trying to right-size through a merger. The capital budget proposes $3 million for State Aid for School District consolidation.·       Pass no strike imposition legislation prohibiting teacher strikes and board-imposed contracts while requiring both teachers and school boards to agree to a process for resolving labor disputes through third party decision making in the rare but disrupting instances when no negotiated agreement is reached.·       Enhance authority of the State Board of Education to redistrict in cases where a school or district is orphaned and needs to be part of a bigger union.·       Ensure decisions such as principal hiring, health care contracting, and other significant spending take place at the supervisory union level and empower Principals to hire all staff at their schools.The Governor is also proposing that the state take its data sharing to the next level by partnering with all districts, starting with the most vulnerable, to create tailored performance measures, including targets for student outcomes, school climate, staff to student ratios and per pupil spending. Districts will get feedback, and if changes are needed, they will receive guidance and time to make progress. For those districts that do not make progress despite feedback from this process, the Governor will work with the Legislature this session to determine possible monetary or restructuring penalties. This work will add no additional burden to the education fund.The Governor concluded with a plea to Vermonters and the legislature on the issue of property taxes and school spending. “This is my plea: let’s all commit ourselves to an environment where we listen to all ideas, and do not judge them too soon. Let’s investigate them, challenge each other respectfully, and be open to change,” he said.HIGHER EDUCATION: FREE ASSOCIATES DEGREE IN ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY AND ENHANCED JOB TRAININGBuilding on expanded dual enrollment and early college programs as well as the Vermont Strong Scholars Program, the Governor announced that he will implement an innovative new public/private partnership to create a pathway for Vermont Technical College (VTC) students to earn a free Associates Degree in Engineering Technology and a pipeline for Vermont employers looking for skilled employees.Overseen by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD), the new program will work like this: ACCD will partner with VTC to recruit employers who have job openings. VTC and participating employers will then work together to recruit motivated high school seniors, through campus visits and employer tours. Students who sign up for an Engineering Technology degree through VAST early college at VTC will get their first year of higher education free while finishing high school, then will be guaranteed a summer internship at the partnering employer to gain critical job skills. When they return to VTC for their second year, the employer will pay for their first semester’s tuition, a cost of about $5,000. The Vermont Strong Scholars program will then pay back their loans for their final semester if they stay and work in Vermont after graduation.This program will increase enrollment at VTC, connect young people to education, a job, and a future in Vermont while supplying trained, well-educated workers to Vermont employers who need them.To build on Vermont’s high school and higher education programs like VAST, targeted job training programs and state-registered apprentice and job training programs, the Governor is proposing this year to increase job training efforts to match Vermonters with current job openings and areas with projected job growth.The State has made a significant commitment to workforce training through funding of the Vermont Training Program and the Next Generation Program, with more than $3.3 million available to utilize and leverage with federal funds.  Through the Agency of Commerce and the Department of Labor, this money can also be supplemented by targeted funds in response to economic challenges facing a region or county.Just recently, the State also received an influx of more than $6.6 million in federal grants to engage in workforce training, which it will use in partnership with the University of Vermont, Vermont Technical College, Community College of Vermont, and Vermont HITEC. These grant awards will allow Vermont to focus job training at key existing employers with high need and to create a ready workforce for new employers in Vermont, such as Precyse and GlobalFoundries, looking to expand their job offerings.ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: BOOSTING VEGI, MARKETING AND GLOBALFOUNDRIESVermont’s future lies in the amazing success of the many high tech and advanced manufacturing companies that are growing statewide. The signs of success are everywhere, from Burlington being named one of the top emerging tech hubs in America to growing companies like Dealer.com, MyWebGrocer, and Logic Supply to new high tech startups like the new ad-free social media site Ello and Designbook, a new crowdsourcing and start-up platform. But it’s not just Burlington: Pwnie Express in Barre has been recognized by Wired magazine for its cyber security devices; Global Z in Bennington has been quietly growing into a global leader in data management; Yonder, the app Backpacker Magazine described as “what happens when Instagram and Foursquare meet at REI and have a baby together,” is growing in Woodstock.Vermont’s manufacturers are also on a comeback, employing more than 11 percent of the State’s workforce. Innovative companies such as Mack Molding in Arlington and Cavendish and GW Plastics in Bethel have successfully expanded into new areas. Vermont Precision Tool in St. Albans has taken on some of the very capable workforce that Kennametal left behind in Lyndonville. In Bennington, car parts fabricator NSK is adding jobs and has employed some of Plasan’s former workforce. Cabot Hosiery has seen orders for their Darn Tough “Made in Vermont” brand double.A part of this success has been Vermont’s targeted incentives like the Vermont Economic Growth Incentive (VEGI) program. In this most recent round of funding the Vermont Economic Progress Council is using VEGI to leverage $21.4 million in new full-time payroll and over $37 million in qualifying capital investments in the recipient companies over the next five years. These investments are spread throughout the state, from National Hanger Company in North Bennington to Cabot Hosiery in Northfield, Vermont Packinghouse in Springfield, and Blodgett Ovens in Essex. With their awards, these companies will create over 550 new jobs for Vermonters, with an average yearly salary of more than $50,000.To build on this success and bolster the VEGI program, the governor proposed three improvements, including:·       Remove the $1 million cap for special projects outside of Chittenden County.·       Work to change the qualifying wage rate to recognize regional economic differences, increasing the number of companies around the state that qualify for job creation support·       Enable companies to use VEGI dollars earlier for training new hires.With tourism supporting 30,000 jobs, the Governor is also proposing to partner with the Vermont Chamber of Commerce to use increased revenue from the rooms and meals tax to boost tourism and marketing funding. Under the proposal, 15 percent of Rooms and Meals tax receipts above budgeted projections will be invested in increased tourism and marketing support. The fund will also be used to promote remarkable companies like Ello, Faraday, Dealer.com, Keurig Green Mountain, Rhino Foods, and so many more that show what a great place Vermont is for technology businesses, manufacturing and entrepreneurship.Lastly, Vermont is entering a new era of advanced manufacturing with the pending purchase of IBM by GlobalFoundries. The company is committed to Vermont, and they backed that talk up with action by offering jobs to every single one of the IBM employees that are a part of the deal. If the sale is approved, GlobalFoundries wants to build on IBM’s strong foundation here in Vermont and grow jobs as it seeks to become the worldwide leader in chip R&D and radio frequency silicon chips, the kind that nearly every wireless device use. To make sure GlobalFoundries is a success in Vermont, the Governor has asked his Commerce Secretary Pat Moulton to work closely with the company to support further investments as the company takes over the operation of this critical economic engine for Vermont.The Governor concluded his address by saying, “It is an extraordinary privilege to govern a state where we all know each other, where a citizen legislature shows the country how to take on the biggest challenges we face, and where we really do put aside partisan differences that can paralyze democracy.  Each of us comes to elected office filled with the intention to do good for our communities and our state.  Every election is an opportunity to remind ourselves of our purpose, and renew our commitment to help Vermonters through our service.  Vermonters expect nothing less from us, and I believe they deserve even more.  I hope the proposals presented today and last week will help tackle the big problems we currently face and leave Vermonters with a feeling that state government can make their lives and our state better.  I look forward to the opportunity to debate, shape, and implement these proposals with you this session and beyond, to make lasting progress for jobs, our kids, our quality of life, and our environment.”Budget Address Governor Peter Shumlin January 15, 2015 Mr. President, Mr. President Pro Tem, Mr. Speaker, members of the General Assembly, Mr. Chief Justice, distinguished guests, and fellow Vermonters:As I stated here a week ago we have many challenges and opportunities ahead. Today, as I deliver the toughest budget I’ve put together, I will present to you Part 2 of my plan for how we can help secure a better future for all of us.When I listen to the voices of Vermonters, from every corner of our state, from every background, and of every political persuasion, their frustration and uncertainty about their future is clear. They play by the rules, work hard – sometimes at more than one job, but their bills keep piling up faster than they can bring in the money to pay them. At a time when the wealth gap between the people at the top and everyone else is more extreme than since before the Great Depression, Vermonters hear about the recovery both in Vermont and nationally; they hear about our state’s low unemployment numbers; and they wonder: Why aren’t I seeing it? Why is my family being held back?We know many of the drivers of this unease. Rising health care costs and rising property taxes, among others, with no corresponding rise in incomes and property values. Many hardworking Vermonters who would be proud to call themselves members of the middle class are left with a feeling that they are treading water or, worse, dipping below the surface.Like a family trying to adjust its budget to meet reality, it is our responsibility as state leaders to match spending with Vermonters’ ability to pay. Government must be effective, efficient, and affordable.Let’s not forget that the budget is just the math that shows us how we will achieve what really matters: to provide the services Vermonters need while creating opportunity for all of us to fulfill our full potential as citizens, family members, workers, and business owners.Though many Vermonters are struggling with affordability, all the news is not bad news. Our state economy is doing much better now than when I became governor four years ago. Unemployment is down; jobs are up; and foreclosures and bankruptcies have dropped sharply. General Fund revenues grew $175 million from FY11 to FY14. Contrast that with 2008 and 2009, when state revenues fell by more than $97 million and Vermonters were losing jobs left and right.Nevertheless, when I gave this speech last year, the official revenue forecast for FY16 was $40 million higher than it is today. A year ago, the consensus economic forecast was that our state revenue would go up by 5% in this budget year enabling us to grow our way back to a balanced budget. That has not happened. We now know that revenue this year will, at best, grow only by 3%, and we continue to expect a downgrade in projected growth when our economists release an update later this month. Looking ahead, the General Fund is expected to grow around 3.5% for the next five years.We have already made some tough decisions together and reduced the FY 15 budget by $34 million. Many of these ongoing spending reductions are carried forward into the FY16 budget. Over the past four years we have also been weaning the State off the significant one-time federal stimulus dollars that helped pull Vermont, and many other states, through the downturn without completely eviscerating state government. We have reduced our reliance from a high of $59 million in FY12 to the FY16 proposal which includes only $11 million of non-recurring funds.Reduced growth rates in Vermont and across the country; dried up federal funds; the need to promote affordability for Vermonters – these realities lead to a single challenging conclusion: working together, we must take a different approach by curbing state spending to bring the cost of state services back in line with growth. While it will take more than one year to adjust to this new reality, my FY16 budget makes a strong start.To those who would call upon us to solve our $94 million budget gap by raising it in taxes, I am here to tell you that will not work, even if we could afford it, because our economy is growing more slowly than our state spending. Simple math tells us that we would have to raise revenue year after year if we fail to match our spending rate with our growth rate.With all of this in mind, I am presenting a balanced budget knowing that it is the beginning of a conversation regarding how to structure state government sustainably to meet the needs of Vermonters. You can expect me to engage deeply with you on how best to do this.I want to share the five principles that guided our work:First, I won’t charge our budget challenges to our kids and grandkids. My budget fully funds our retirement contributions and debt obligations. I am proud that we have maintained one of the strongest bond ratings in the country. With Vermonters struggling to pay their property tax bills, I also fully fund the General Fund transfer to the Education Fund.Second, state government must address ways to be more efficient. Therefore, I propose more than $15 million in ongoing savings driven by this principle. These include streamlining and consolidating government services and restructuring some programs. It is a necessary job of all good organizations – public and private – to continually look at what they do and ask: Is what we are doing meeting our core principles, and are we doing it the best way we can? These choices are rarely popular or without critics. Change is always hard. All of these cuts, and others detailed in the budget, have been proposed because I believe we can offer them while still providing core state services. But let me be clear – they are real; I know each matters deeply; and they are tough: In addition to personnel or labor cost savings, I am proposing consolidation of some libraries, public safety call centers, the onsite septic program, and the Community High School of Vermont. I propose that we not include state LIHEAP in the base budget this year, relying instead on our past practice of stretching our $18 million federal appropriation. While we cannot fill all the holes left by federal cuts, we will use the budget adjustment to make necessary enhancements. My budget counts $125 of social security income toward Reach Up eligibility to make it consistent with some other state programs. This reduces total Reach Up spending while preserving all other aspects of the program including those we added with you last session to help fix the benefits cliff.My budget also presents a net reduction of funding for 11 state employee positions and requests additional savings of approximately $9 million in personnel costs. This will require the Vermont State Employees Association to support some of the choices our budget will present – through reduced salaries and expenses and other ways – to avoid even larger problems if we fail.I know we will debate these and other parts of the budget throughout the session, but I ask critics of my proposals for restructuring to follow a simple rule: If you don’t like my recommendations, propose your own that achieve equal ongoing savings.Our third principle is this: wherever possible, make smart choices by not cutting programs that deliver more to Vermonters in economic opportunity and support than they cost. You will see that we retain investments in the Vermont Rental Subsidy, the Family Supportive Housing Initiative, and the Emergency Solutions grants that have a proven record of avoiding temporary motel shelters and helping the homeless move to stable housing. For programs that help sustain our most vulnerable, we have held spending wherever possible at last year’s levels.The fourth principle underlying our budget proposal is that we should not cut state programs if it will do far more harm than good down the road – as we saw in the depths of the recession with cuts that eroded our ability to adequately protect Vermonters, including vulnerable children. My budget does not cut one dime from Child Protection services; in fact, it supports the increased staffing and other progress we made in response to the tragedies last year. While we may never entirely prevent people with empty hearts from committing horrible crimes against those they should love and protect, the state must do everything it can to help our vulnerable children.We will present proposals to you this year to strengthen communication, transparency, enforcement, and protection in our child safety work. We also used the position pilot you wisely authorized last year to allow DCF to better manage the workload within its existing appropriation by adding social workers, as well as other child protection staff, within its present budget authority. While this is a necessary and substantial start, more is needed. I want to thank the Department and its hard-working staff for the improvements they have already made and the further work they will do with Senators Sears and Ayer, Representatives Lippert and Pugh, and all of you to better protect our children.One truth we should all acknowledge: the horrible tragedies inflicted upon innocent children across our state last year were driven by addiction. In their memory we must continue our work to prevent opiate and heroin abuse. The budget I propose continues support for treatment centers, recovery centers, and our statewide criminal justice rapid intervention program, and increases by 16% overall drug treatment spending to make sure last year’s progress is more than a one-time success. Together, Vermonters are facing the ravages of heroin and opiate addiction in our families, friends and communities, and we must continue to fight.Finally, my budget relies on the principle of balance. We cannot just restructure and cut to close our $94 million hole without inflicting significant damage upon Vermonters who need us. You have heard many times over the past four years my opposition to raising income, sales, and rooms & meals tax rates to fund state government. I remain convinced that our tax rates are already high enough, and as I travel across our state, Vermonters echo that view.Nevertheless, to meet a portion of our budget gap, I am proposing we close an income tax loophole that we partially fixed in 2009, by eliminating the deduction of state and local taxes paid from state tax returns. Vermont is in the minority of income tax states that still allow taxpayers who itemize to use this loophole to deduct from this year’s state taxes the taxes they paid last year. The average benefit for those who use this deduction is $175. Eliminating it raises $15.5 million toward our budget gap. This progressive and principled approach is sensible and timely.I hope we can return to these five principles as we debate this year’s tough budget together. I do not insist that I have all the answers; I do know we must work together to fund state government and deliver services affordably to Vermonters.Balancing our budget is only part of our responsibility this year. The key to our future is a growing, vibrant, entrepreneurial economy that supports jobs and better wages. Last week, I urged us all to seize our advantage to power Vermont forward in energy innovation to grow more jobs and lower our energy bills. I urged us to take the anger and frustration we feel when we see and smell algae blooms in our lakes to do more to protect our waters that are so vital to our economy and our way of life.We also know that the future of our working families and job creators depends upon improving access and affordability of health care by getting control of the unsustainable increases in health care spending. The future of our children depends upon finding solutions to the high costs of public education while improving quality and moving more of our kids beyond high school. The future of our state depends upon offering greater access to higher education and job training, and providing better support for our employers who drive economic development and job creation.Let me tell you my proposals in each of these areas.HEALTH CARE I have pursued health care reform for nearly two decades because I know how much the ever-rising cost of health care hurts families and businesses. The U.S. health care system is unsustainable, unfair, and unaffordable for too many. I know, perhaps better than anyone else in this room, just how hard it is to change the health care system. Yet it is absolutely critical that we do so or it will destroy the rest of our economy and the ability of Vermonters to pay their bills.That is why, despite great challenges and recent setbacks, I remain absolutely committed to continued improvement to our health care system so that we can fulfill the vision set forth by Act 48.Let’s make real progress together by moving to payment for quality outcomes instead of number of procedures; by fixing the state’s chronic underpayment of Medicaid which shifts costs and artificially inflates private insurance premiums; and by increasing health care access and affordability for Vermonters. Here are the five ways I propose we accomplish these goals:First, we need to accelerate the hard work we’ve begun on cost containment and move to a more rational way to pay our providers. It does not make sense that doctors and hospitals receive different amounts of money for the same procedures, depending upon who pays. It also does not make sense that our providers get paid for the number of procedures they perform, not results. Our current payment system does not reward healthy outcomes; it creates administrative headaches for our providers; it underpays our primary care community which threatens their survival; and isn’t fair because some of us – usually our businesses that offer health insurance and those of us with private insurance – end up paying more than our share to support the costs of the whole health care system.That’s why we must push full-steam ahead to become the first state to move from the current fee for service system to one that pays providers for the quality outcomes they produce by pursuing our “all payer” waiver with the federal government. The Green Mountain Care Board is working closely with my health care team to submit a waiver application that will allow us to align how we pay our providers across private insurance and public programs to ensure that providers have the right incentives for improving quality while bending the cost curve. This should be achievable by January 2017 if we all work together, and I ask for your support.Second, to aid these efforts, I propose we strengthen the Green Mountain Care Board. The Board is already successfully containing costs and moving the state steadily to a new, more rational payment system. In the past two budget years, the Board has held hospital spending growth to just 3%, less than half the growth rate that was seen over the previous seven years and the lowest hospital growth rate in over 30 years.To make sure that the Board institutionalizes its early cost containment success, I will ask the Legislature to enhance the Board’s role as the central regulator of health care so it can treat health care like the public good that it is. The Green Mountain Care Board, which was created by you in part based upon the well-established regulatory model of our Public Service Board, should also have the ability to open investigations into pressing issues and act where needed. It needs the ability to align health care technology investments with a more unified statewide system by having budgetary and programmatic oversight of the Vermont Information Technology Leaders, VITL. The Board should also have the power to approve innovative payment and delivery models promoted by our Accountable Care Organizations, physicians, and clinics.Make no mistake: the Board faces a significant challenge, since national health care costs are expected to grow over 6% annually by 2019. While many of the other 49 states might sit back and continue health care business as usual, Vermonters cannot afford to do so. In order to continue our cost containment progress, we must strengthen our Board.Third, we need additional investment in Vermont’s Blueprint for Health to build on its early success in reducing costs while improving quality. It has been central to our reform efforts; our job now is to position it for a strong future. Our Blueprint medical homes and community health teams have effectively increased social services for the sickest and most needy Vermonters on Medicaid, and have reduced the medical needs of those with private insurance while saving about $550 per person every single year.Today, its future is at risk because participating providers have not seen an increase in payments since the Blueprint launched. My budget fixes this by more than doubling payments to Medicaid’s Blueprint providers with a new $4.5 million appropriation, including increasing Medicaid’s community health team payments by $1 million and adding $3.5 million to Medicaid medical home payments. My budget also supports our hard working Home Health organizations with an additional $1.25 million to help them move forward with payment reform.I also propose that we expand to more Vermonters the good work done by home and community providers, like the Support and Services at Home (SASH) program and Vermont Care Alliance, by supporting my request for an additional $500,000 that will draw down $5 million in federal match. Programs like these keep Vermonters with chronic conditions healthier by managing their needs before they get sicker. It saves money and improves quality of life and we should make this model more widely available. This investment just makes sense; I need your support.Fourth, in order to make sure Vermonters have access to the care they need, we need to do more to fix the state’s broken Medicaid reimbursement rates. Anyone in business will tell you: when you get paid as little as 40 to 60 cents on a dollar of cost, you can’t stay in business. This puts our independent rural providers with high numbers of Medicaid patients at the greatest risk. All across Vermont, providers who treat Medicaid patients have two choices to limit losses: charge patients with private insurance a higher rate; or turn away Medicaid patients who desperately need care.Current Medicaid reimbursements drive up private insurance costs for businesses and individuals, acting as a hidden tax or cost shift. This amounts to an astonishing $150 million in private premium inflation every single year. Our failure to fix this by increasing state Medicaid reimbursements also means we are failing to draw down tens of millions of dollars in available matching federal funds.Therefore, my budget invests $25 million starting January 1, 2016, providing a 50% increase to our primary care providers and reducing the current Medicaid cost shift by half. My budget also will commit nearly $30 million in FY16 to cover the nearly 20,000 people who now have insurance coverage thanks to Vermont Health Connect and our Medicaid expansions.Every dollar of this increased payment in Medicaid reimbursements will be used to reduce the cost shift and bring down private insurance rates. My budget proposal includes language that requires the Green Mountain Care Board through its hospital budget and rate review processes to return the savings created by these increased payments, reducing premiums for businesses and individuals by up to 5% from what they would have otherwise charged.Fifth, we should better address health care access and affordability for Vermonters. We all should be very proud that, as a result of our implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we have now cut in half the number of Vermonters without health insurance. Vermont is one of two states in the country that now offers enhanced financial help, beyond what the Affordable Care Act provides, to those struggling to pay their share of health care costs. Yet we know from the recent household insurance survey that the biggest obstacle to care continues to be cost. Some of these individuals have insurance, but struggle mightily to meet their other out of pocket costs, deductibles, and co-pays when they get sick. Others refuse to sign up for insurance at all because of exactly the same concerns.That is why I recommend an additional $2 million to double the state’s current funding that helps families with incomes between $48,000 and $72,000 to afford to go to the doctor when they are sick, and pick up their prescriptions when they need them.I know that some of you have other ideas to increase health care affordability, increase coverage, or provide backstop care for our few remaining uninsured, and I welcome all good ideas.You might be asking: How are we going to pay for this? I propose to pay for all of the investments I just outlined with a seven-tenths of a percent (0.7%) payroll tax. The money raised from this tax will go into the State Health Care Resource Fund and will be dedicated to reducing the cost shift and improving health care quality and delivery. Why, you will ask, is a small payroll tax actually a sensible choice for businesses that have to pay it? Why is it the right move for Vermont? Every dollar the state collects allows us to draw down $1.10 of federal funds, more than doubling our money. In FY16, my proposal would raise $41 million in state funds matched with an additional $45 million in federal dollars.This proposal makes sense for businesses that provide health insurance because we can reduce the cost shift overall by more money than the tax raises by drawing down the federal match, lowering private insurance premiums. It benefits all Vermonters because the combined state and federal dollars raised increase payments to providers and increase access for Vermonters, while making commercial insurance more affordable for individuals and businesses. It will also leverage cost shift reduction for businesses that offer insurance today by asking for a small contribution through the payroll tax from all businesses, including those that do not currently offer insurance.Many of you share my disappointment that we will not achieve, at this time, the grand vision of Green Mountain Care. I know you, like me, want to ensure Vermont continues to make great strides in health care reform. Let me assure you that if we adopt the package that I have just outlined, we will have achieved a significant and meaningful part of the goal we set out for ourselves in Act 48 – real cost containment, a more rational delivery and payment system, and a high-quality, integrated health care system with better access and affordability for all Vermonters. These are huge accomplishments, critical to our economy, to putting more dollars in Vermonter’s pockets, and improving our quality of life. I ask for your support this session.EDUCATION/PROPERTY TAX There may be nothing more important to our future prosperity than providing a quality education for all our children. Yet today, Vermonters feel tapped out trying to meet that goal. There is no mystery why: While the number of students in our schools plummets, our property taxes skyrocket, and our property values and incomes stagnate. You heard it and I heard it from Vermonters all over the state these past months – they are frustrated at rising costs they struggle to control and they want action.Adding to their frustration is unease that we are not buying better outcomes with all the money that we spend. While our public schools receive deserved praise, the quality of education varies greatly across the state, and we are not making progress where we need it the most: engaging our kids living in poverty to excel in school and seek education beyond high school.Some seek precipitous changes that would fundamentally alter the way we delivery education in Vermont. To roll back the more than $230 million in increased education spending added in the past decade all at once would require us to immediately eliminate at least 2,500 of our teachers or close dozens and dozens of our schools.So drastic a move obviously would harm our ability to deliver high-quality, equitable education, but let there be no doubt that Vermonters want action and real change. If you think tax rates look bad now, let me share some really bad news: if we do nothing, projections for the next five years are worse; projections for the next 10 years are even worse than that. In fact, the numbers become eye-popping. Complacency is not an option. The status quo is not an option. Never before in my life as a public servant have I seen more will, across parties and across interests, to improve quality and lower costs.Let’s remember the facts as we act: Since 1998, Vermont has seen student enrollment decline by 24,000, a whopping 20% statewide, and some communities have lost over 50% of their students. There is no end to the decline presently in sight, as our population ages. Despite this decline, we employ more teachers and paraprofessionals than ever, with a statewide student-to-staff ratio of 4.7 to 1. We have the lowest class sizes in the country. Due to declining enrollment, 20% of our elementary classrooms have between two to nine children.The question is: Are we getting quality education for our higher price in these micro-classrooms? The answer is no. We buy those very small classes at the expense of foreign language, tech classes, the arts, sports, and other critical offerings. Our kids suffer as quality declines, and it is their future that takes the hit. Some of our schools are so small, the scores can’t even be reported in a statistically significant way, meaning we have zero data to measure their progress. We have one of the highest high school graduation rates in the country, but our students pursue post-secondary education at one of the lowest rates in the nation, with students living in poverty the least likely to move beyond high school. Our complex and archaic governance structure has principals and superintendents voting with their feet. An astounding 30% of them leave their jobs every single year, destabilizing critical leadership.Property taxes rise; student counts drop; and quality does not improve appreciably despite the enormous amount of money we are spending. We have to ask ourselves: Given all of these facts, are we spending money wisely, targeting our limited dollars where they will make the biggest difference for our children?This is not a problem we can pretend to fix by changing the way we collect revenue. We pay for education through property tax, income tax, sales tax, vehicle purchase tax, and lottery. To those who believe that the answer to our education spending problem is to ask for more money from any of Vermonters’ pockets, you have missed the point. Vermonters understand that we have a spending problem, and we need to fix it. They expect better outcomes for our students at lower costs. That should be our goal.In doing so, we must not compromise our constitutional obligation to ensure that every child has access to equal educational opportunity. Let’s not return to a pre Act 60/68 system where the quality of our kid’s educations depends upon the wealth of the community they happen to live in.Across Vermont, parents, teachers, school boards, students and voters are asking for help. I believe that when you give Vermonters the facts with good data, they will do the right thing every time. To support them, I made it a top priority to develop a partnership with schools and communities to give them the information they need to chart a better future for their children and their taxpayers.This past summer, I tasked my Education Secretary, Rebecca Holcombe to begin this work. Impressively, she has already met directly with members of almost every single local school board, and has shared data with every district in the state. The data is compelling, and uses facts, not emotion to demonstrate the need for partnership and change.We know there is a will to act at the local level. With overwhelming support, Chittenden East voters in six participating school districts approved a new merged district with a single board. Working together, they will have more power to provide superior and affordable education to their kids, and I applaud them for it. Other communities are engaging in similar conversations right now.Vermont’s schools are built upon a long tradition of local control, but we have to ask: What does that really mean today? For many communities where student counts have dropped precipitously, local control means board members finding themselves no longer in a position of deciding what opportunities to provide to their kids, but instead deciding what opportunities they have to take away. Do we cut foreign languages? The arts? Sports teams? Technology and computer classes? Meanwhile, even if one town makes cuts, the town next door might not – thereby driving up everyone’s costs and making local control more like local not-in-control.But if you really want to make a mess of our school system, ask Montpelier to come up with a one-size-fits-all solution of central control. Every time we try to solve the big problems in education by ourselves under this Dome, we run into a reality roadblock: every school, every district, and every community and region in our state is different and faces unique challenges that require unique solutions.That is why I’m so convinced that partnership is the answer. The partnership of local communities with my Agency and the State Board of Education, driven by real data about quality and cost, will result in a more affordable system with better outcomes for our kids. This will make local control real control, partnered with the state.Montpelier has a critical role to play in this partnership. We are fortunate that so many have come forward with ideas to help, but no one is sure which may work. So this is my plea: let’s all commit ourselves to an environment where we listen to all ideas, and do not judge them too soon. Let’s investigate them, challenge each other respectfully, and be open to change.Here are my proposals: First, we need to provide even more data to help people answer the questions they have about rising spending. My Agency of Education has today launched online tools right on our website to help communities understand their education spending, phantom students, tax rates, enrollment, and staffing. Encourage your communities to check it out as they review local budgets. Second, let’s commit to a moratorium on new mandates from Montpelier that adds costs to districts. Third, we must phase out or eliminate contradictory incentives built into the funding formula like the small schools grant and the phantom student provision. Fourth, we will target construction aid for districts that are actively trying to right-size through a merger. My capital budget proposes $3 million for this purpose. Fifth, we should pass legislation prohibiting both teacher strikes and board-imposed contracts, while requiring both sides to resolve differences through third party decision-making when negotiation fails. Sixth, we should consider giving enhanced redistricting authority to the State Board of Education or another entity when schools are orphaned and need to be part of a bigger union. Seventh, we should make sure decisions such as principal hiring, health care contracting, and other significant spending take place at the supervisory union level, and we should empower principals to hire all staff at their schools.These proposals will help, but a bigger transformation is required to truly bend our costs and shore up our challenged schools. So here is our bigger idea.Last year, you appropriated $3.5 million to the Agency of Education to help evaluate what we are buying with our education fund dollars. I have asked Secretary Holcombe to use this significant commitment to broaden and deepen our Education Quality Review program to help communities get a clearer picture of how effectively they are serving students and spending money.The Agency will go into schools with evaluation teams of colleagues and state experts. They will use data to set educational and fiscal targets, involving student performance, school climate, per pupil spending increases, and staff to student ratios, among others. They will then help schools achieve them. We will work with our most vulnerable districts first, and our goal will be to support improvement. A partnership means working together, but we must be prepared to act when necessary.We will give districts time to make progress, but if they do not make improvements in their fiscal or educational results, we should either adjust the funding formula to ensure that other taxpayers do not support continued bad choices or, when absolutely necessary, find ways to exercise authority to close schools. I propose we work this session to structure this enhanced review system to improve quality and cut costs.I know my proposals will not be welcome by everyone, but I hope you will consider them thoroughly and review them with an open mind, realizing that even more drastic solutions may be demanded by Vermonters if we fail to act. It will take time, hard work, courage and partnership – in Montpelier and in our schools and communities – to see progress, but it is critical that we start now.HIGHER EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE TRAINING Let’s not forget the reasons we are striving every day to improve our education system. It is the right thing to do for our kids. It also prepares them for good jobs, drives economic development, and attracts families to our state which desperately needs young workers.We have had many successes. I am proud that my Administration secured two highly competitive early childhood grants, attracting $70 million dollars in federal funds to help give our youngest Vermonters a strong start.We are also better preparing our students for the higher-skill, higher-wage jobs that are increasingly part of Vermont’s innovative jobs landscape. Nearly 1,300 juniors and seniors are taking college courses right now through our dual enrollment program. Last year, 142 high school seniors took advantage of our early college program at six Vermont colleges, making higher education more affordable by earning a whole first year of college for free. Meanwhile, more than 4,200 first-generation students participated in VSAC’s GEAR UP and Talent Search programs to help prepare for college.This progress matters. It matters to the parents of those young Vermonters who understand the importance of providing their children the opportunity to move beyond high school, but struggle to afford it. It matters to our employers, who need qualified applicants to fill many open jobs. It matters to all of us because the future success of these students means the future success of our entire state.Now listen to our next step. We are going to partner with businesses and Vermont Tech to create a free Associates Degree in Engineering Technology, and it can be done with no additional cost to the Education Fund.This is how it will work: Our Agency will recruit employers who need high-skilled workers. Vermont Tech and these participating employers will work together to find motivated high school seniors. Students who sign up for VAST early college will get their first year of college credit free while finishing high school, followed by a guaranteed summer internship at the partnering employer to gain critical job skills. When they return to Vermont Tech for their second year, the employer will pay for their first semester’s tuition, about $5000, and the Vermont Strong Scholars program will then pay back loans for their final semester if they stay and work in Vermont after graduation.This partnership is a four-way win. Vermont Tech increases enrollment; our students get degrees; our businesses get the trained employees they need; and our young people stay in Vermont.We know our businesses’ success also means success for working Vermonters. In addition to our high school and higher education programs like VAST, we have expanded other targeted job training programs to ensure Vermonters starting out or looking to move up in the workplace have the training they require. This year we will increase our job training efforts, with more than $3.3 million in Next Generation and other funds for our workforce training programs. We also will benefit from $6.6 million in recent federal grants for workforce training and help the long-term unemployed, in partnership with UVM, our state colleges, and Vermont HITEC.ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT You may not have predicted this a decade ago, but today our advanced manufacturers are on a comeback, employing more than 11% of our workforce. We’re seeing innovative companies such as Mack Molding in Arlington, and GW Plastics in Bethel successfully expand into growing markets, like medical devices. Vermont Precision Tool in Swanton has hired some of the very capable workforce from Kennametal in Lyndonville. In Bennington, car parts fabricator NSK is adding jobs and has employed some of Plasan’s former workforce. Cabot Hosiery has seen orders for its Darn Tough “Made in Vermont” socks double, as they expand their physical plant and add jobs. The list of manufacturers going strong and creating jobs is impressive.We expect our newest advanced manufacturing company will build on the foundation of one of our oldest. When IBM announced it would sell its chip manufacturing division to GlobalFoundries, we entered a new era of advanced manufacturing in Vermont. In GlobalFoundries, we will have a partner who will see Vermont’s success as its success. The company is, in essence, a very large start-up. If the IBM sale is approved, GlobalFoundries will essentially double its U.S. workforce in one fell swoop. It will gain a foothold, through the strategic acquisition of the Vermont operations, in providing state-of-the-art chips that nearly every wireless device – from your smart phone to your tablet — relies on today.GlobalFoundries will also gain our highly-skilled, innovative workforce – and it has offered jobs to every single employee who is not being retained by IBM. Meanwhile, IBM will maintain a presence in Vermont with continued R&D work at the Essex campus for hundreds of current IBM employees, good news for Vermont.We are partnering with GlobalFoundries to ensure its Vermont success. I am grateful for the productive meetings with CEO Sanjay Jha and his team, and have asked my Commerce Secretary Pat Moulton to work closely with GlobalFoundries to support this new company’s growth and investment in Vermont. We will continue to be accessible, nimble, supportive, and innovative as we build this critical relationship.The spirit of innovation is alive and well all around our state. Burlington was named one of the top emerging tech hubs in the country last year. In addition to Dealer.com and MyWebGrocer, there is a new wave of high tech startups like our LaunchVT pitch contest winner IrisVR; online game designer GameTheory; Designbook; a new crowdsourcing and start-up platform; and the new ad-free social media site Ello – which had as many as 40,000 users sign up per hour this past September.That growth is not just in Burlington: Pwnie Express in Barre has been recognized by Wired magazine for its cyber security devices; Global Z in Bennington has quietly become a global leader in data management; Yonder, the app that Backpacker Magazine described as “what happens when Instagram and Foursquare meet at REI and have a baby together,” is growing in Woodstock.Our economic development programs – including the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive (VEGI), the Entrepreneurial Lending Fund, the Vermont Small Business Offering Exemption, and others – are nurturing businesses at all stages and helping to foster this job growth.In its most recent round of awards, the Vermont Economic Progress Council used VEGI to leverage $21.4 million in new full-time payroll and over $37 million in qualifying capital investments in the recipient companies over the next five years. The investment is spread throughout the state, from National Hanger Company in North Bennington to Vermont Packinghouse in Springfield and Blodgett Ovens in Essex. With their awards, these companies will create more than 550 new jobs, with an average yearly salary of more than $50,000 each.VEGI has been an important and successful economic development tool, and it is one we must continue to sharpen to help improve our economy. Therefore I will ask you make the following 3 improvements in the program: First, we will present a proposal to remove the $1 million cap for special projects outside of Chittenden County. Second, we will work with you to change the qualifying wage rate to recognize regional economic differences, increasing the number of companies around the state that qualify for job creation support. Third, we will also enable companies to use VEGI dollars earlier for training new hires.Another of our important economic drivers continues to be tourism. We are within a day’s drive of more than 80 million people starving for what Vermont offers: our quality of life, our ski slopes and trails, our beautiful downtowns, our beer, our award-winning cheese, our local food, and so much more. They come to experience all the things that we love about Vermont.Growing tourism grows our economy, and directly supports more than 30,000 jobs. That is why I will partner with the Vermont Chamber of Commerce on a plan to use increased revenue from the rooms and meals tax to boost our tourism and marketing efforts. In 2014, visitors to Vermont spent more than $2.5 billion. I propose we take 15% of future growth of our rooms and meals tax receipt above budgeted projections and invest it in tourism and marketing support and promotion, capping it at $750,000. This budget-neutral proposal will grow jobs and promote Vermont.We also need to shout from the rooftops what a great place Vermont is for technology businesses, manufacturing and start-ups. We need do a better job of telling the story of our remarkable entrepreneurs because they show that Vermont is a great place to work and do business. We launched our Great Jobs in Vermont campaign because we know that when folks visit Vermont they fall in love and want to come back to work or start a business as so many of our successful entrepreneurs have already done. We want others to learn what we already know: Vermont is the best place to live, work, and raise a family.CONCLUSION It is an extraordinary privilege to govern a state where we all know each other, where a citizen legislature shows the country how to take on the biggest challenges we face, and where we really do put aside partisan differences that can paralyze democracy. Each of us comes to elected office filled with the intention to do good for our communities and our state. Every election is an opportunity to remind ourselves of our purpose, and renew our commitment to help Vermonters through our service. Vermonters expect nothing less from us, and I believe they deserve even more. I hope the proposals presented today and last week will help tackle the big problems we currently face and leave Vermonters with a feeling that state government can make their lives and our state better. I look forward to the opportunity to debate, shape, and implement these proposals with you this session and beyond, to make lasting progress for jobs, our kids, our quality of life, and our environment.last_img read more

Shumlin announces public-private partnership to fund energy-efficient home upgrades for Vermont residents

first_imgVermont Business Magazine In response to growing demand from Vermont homeowners seeking to invest in energy-efficient upgrades that can help them save money on their heating and electricity bills, Governor Peter Shumlin has announced continued funding of a program that has an outstanding track record for helping homeowners meet their energy efficiency needs. As a result of ongoing discussions with the Governor’s office about how best to support the needs of Vermont communities, Bank of America Merrill Lynch will provide $1.5 million in capital to NeighborWorks of Western Vermont (NWWVT), a nonprofit homeownership organization and community development financial institution (CDFI) that specializes in financing energy efficiency improvements.Homeowners across Vermont interested in an affordable loan to fund energy efficiency improvements for their homes should contact NWWVT at 1.802.438.2303 or info@nwwvt.org(link sends e-mail) to discuss options.The rising cost of homeownership nationwide has left some residents unable to access the funds necessary to facilitate energy-efficient home improvement projects. This infusion of private capital builds on the success of NWWVT’s thermal energy efficiency program, the NeighborWorks HEAT Squad, which will help Vermont homeowners finance important energy efficiency upgrades that can immediately save energy and, over time, save money.“Continued support of the NeighborWorks HEAT Squad program will help Vermont residents stay warm while enabling our community to move toward a cleaner, more sustainable future – something that is top of mind following the recent agreement by world leaders to help curb global warming,” said Shumlin.The NeighborWorks HEAT Squad program was initially created by NWWVT in 2010 using a $4.5 million grant from the Department of Energy and later drew investment from the State of Vermont and Green Mountain Power’s Community Energy & Efficiency Development Fund. The NeighborWorks HEAT Squad program was recognized as a viable resource for ongoing financial support, aligning with shared priorities of addressing environmental and housing challenges.The program has resulted in over 1,300 weatherization projects to date, with current funding expected to help approximately 120 more Vermont homeowners save an average of $1,000 annually on energy efficiency improvements like insulation and heating systems. Green Mountain Power is the first energy company to offer this program to customers, who can pay down their loan on their monthly electric bill.“With rising costs associated with being a homeowner, it can be difficult to access the capital necessary for energy-efficient home improvement projects that can help lower electric bills,” said Shamus O’Rourke, Northern New England market executive, Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “By funding CDFIs like NWWVT that have a history of success in promoting energy efficiency loans, we are helping homeowners save money while enabling communities to grow in a sustainable way.”The investment in NWWVT will complete the evolution of its HEAT Squad program from a federally funded pilot to a viable, market-based solution addressing Vermont’s energy challenges and economic development goals. This effort is representative of the new model for financing programs by which the public, private and nonprofit sectors work together to achieve positive social outcomes.“Many homeowners are starting to realize that energy efficiency is not only good for the planet, it’s good for their pocket books,” said Thad Omand, chief financial officer of NeighborWorks of Western VT. “What’s lesser known, however, is the immediate savings that homeowners can realize from energy-efficient upgrades. Often, the monthly loan payment a homeowner is making is less than their old energy bill. These savings wouldn’t be possible without capital from partners like Bank of America Merrill Lynch to help us sustain these important programs.”The NeighborWorks HEAT Squad program provides low-cost home energy audits, advice and support, access to incentives through Efficiency Vermont, and accessible financing. NWWVT has loaned $2.1 million to homeowners in the past three years to help Vermonters invest in energy efficiency improvements and renewables, and this financing will enable the organization to continue meeting community needs and encouraging sustainable economic growth.For more information or to discuss loan options, contact NWWVT at 1.802.438.2303 orinfo@nwwvt.org(link sends e-mail).last_img read more

The 2013 Ironman Foundation-Newton Running Ambassador Triathlon Team Announces Selection

first_imgThe Ironman Foundation and Newton Running announced the selection of the 2013 Ironman Foundation-Newton Running Ambassador Triathlon Team. In addition to the announcement of the team, several key sponsors stepped up to support them and its mission of corporate and social responsibility while giving back to the Ironman triathlon communities across the country.The inaugural team, which will begin its 2013 season at Ironman Lake Placid, comprises a diverse group of athletes including three former professional athletes, who have since made the jump to triathlon: Eric Byrnes – former MLB player, Don Davey – former NFL player and Ian Laperriere – former NHL player. Other notable team members include Thad Beaty – guitarist of the Grammy Award winning country music band Sugarland, and 2012 Kona InspiredTM athlete, Shay Eskew.The Ironman Foundation-Newton Running Ambassador Team will also include the backing from a group of sponsors which include SUGOI, Shimano, FuelBelt, Training Peaks, Multisports Coaching, Headsweats, TriBike Transport, GU Energy Labs, Degree, Retül, FLO Cycling, 110% Compression and Justin’s Nut Butter.All 43 athletes will compete throughout the year in different Ironman events and support the mission of both The Ironman Foundation and Newton Running by giving back through a variety of community service projects in the cities where Ironman events are held.Below are the athletes confirmed for The Ironman Foundation-Newton Running Ambassador Triathlon Team:Alessandra Battig, Woodland, CAThad Beaty, Franklin, TNMelissa Bowman Li, Northbrook, ILEric Byrnes, Half Moon Bay, CALarkin Carter, Jackson, MSIan Charles, Tiburon, CAKen Chin, Chicago, ILNicole Clark, Lafayette, CODiana Cohen, Columbia, CNStephanie Crocker, Vancouver, BCDon Davey, Neptune Beach, FLDoreen DeRoss, Lakewood, COCary Epstein, Hewlett, NYShay Eskew, Franklin, TNDaniel Giblin, Rochester, NYBobbe Greenberg, Highland, ILMeghan Henry, Tampa, FLTim Kehoe, North Chesterfield, VAJessica Koelsch, Palm Harbor, FLElizabeth Kollar, St. Petersburg, FLIan Laperriere, Philadelphia, PAChristi Leong, Fort Collins, CODavid Levine, Berkeley, CAJohnny Little, Port Jervis, NYErica McMclurg, Scottsdale, AZKeats McGonigal, Bend, ORStephanie Middleton, Hingham, MANicole Nicolay, Livermore, CAAldo Ocampo, Mexico, DFErin Parker, Provo, UTDiane Peterson, Hawthorn Woods, ILJustin Poitras-George, Ottawa, ONJohn Ratzan, New York, NYJeff Savage, Victoria, BCEd Shifflett, Swarthmore, PAPam Shuckies, Boulder, COMegan Suhonen, Stanwood, MIKhem Suthiwan, Denver, COScott Taylor, Boulder, COHunter Temple, Sante Fe, NMNina Thatcher, San Carlos, CAGeorge Vale, Golden, COJulia Wayner, Glastonburg, CTwww.ironman.comwww,newtonrunning.com  Relatedlast_img read more

Creating Digital Graffiti at Samsung KX: Tangible Interaction and BlackTrax

first_imgLocated in Vancouver, Canada, Tangible Interaction’s footprints are found throughout the city in the form of public artworks displayed for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Science World, Capilano Suspension Bridge, and the Vancouver Aquarium. As an interactive art installation studio, Tangible’s mission goes above and beyond: “Reigniting people’s sense of wonder is at the heart of our design. Our pieces evoke curiosity and playfulness, fostering indelible connections through striking experiences and memorable moments.”The studio was founded by artist Alex Beim, whose creative work in Montevideo, Uruguay resulted in the first graphic design magazine in the country, paving the way with his major contributions to the design community in South America. Beim left the world of 2D design to explore the possibilities in interactivity, beginning the start of a new journey in 2006 in the form of Tangible Interaction Design, one of the only companies of its kind in Canada. Under his creative direction, Tangible’s endeavors are carried out by a multidisciplinary team with expertise in a myriad of fields, including graphic design, industrial design, sound design, electronics engineering and software development. Since its foundation, the team has become a global company, working alongside brands such as Ford, ESPN, Heineken, Adidas and MTV, as well as entertainers including the Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil, Green Day and Coldplay.Among Tangible’s range of experiential products is the Digital Graffiti Wall: an original concept created in 2007 with the goal “to bring people together with a fun, hands-on, interactive experience where anyone can grab a digital spray can to create art.” Since its conception, the Graffiti Wall has appeared in a host of events by the likes of Chanel, Facebook, Apple, Google, and now, Samsung. For this Graffiti Wall installation, Tangible was approached by agency Cheil Worldwide and, together with their creative team, the two companies worked to define and finesse what would become Galaxy Graffiti.Galaxy Graffiti at Samsung KX Spanning 20,000 square feet, the new Samsung KX store at the Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross, London is an experience space that combines the best of local culture and innovation or, in the words of Y. H. Lee, Global CMO of Samsung Electronics: “more dynamic, flexible locations where exploration is endless, and Samsung KX is a place where infinite possibilities are made real.”Inside the space, the Galaxy Graffiti wall stands out immediately to visitors and passersby, marked by a 10-meter wide LED screen showcasing a range of iconic London backdrops. Based on the King’s Cross metro station and the famous graffiti tunnel of London’s Leake Street, these 3D-animated digital canvases were custom-designed by Tangible for Samsung KX. Next to the dynamic backdrop of an animated London, visitors could reach for one of several “spray cans”, each equipped with Samsung Galaxy S10 phones with various colors and brush sizes to choose from, made possible through the custom app created by Tangible. Next, with a simple click and hold of the “spray button”, they could leave their mark on the Galaxy Graffiti LED wall for a fun and interactive experience that is at once simple and impressionistic.The feeling of recreating real-time graffiti art on a massive digital canvas is nothing short of magic, which meant that the very best minds had to be put on the task.The Quest for Live Tracking In search of a perfect live-tracking solution that would accomplish this magical feat with minimal fuss, it was Beim who first spotted the potential of BlackTrax while browsing through Instagram. As soon as they reached out to BlackTrax, the Special Projects Team comprised of Dekkar Densham and Navdeep Hayer took over with enthusiasm for a custom challenge and, working closely with the Tangible team led by Project Manager Mark Olson, began to layout the challenges and brainstorm the possibilities.After some testing at BlackTrax’s in-house studio at CAST HQ in Toronto, the two teams landed on a plan for what would become the final setup as it currently stands in the Samsung KX space. Working with a much smaller area than they were used to, the BlackTrax Special Projects Team had to consider all the angles of coverage that would provide the most realistic level of interactivity for visitors. Due to architectural and aesthetic constraints, the placement of BTSensors initially posed a series of challenges: For instance, in a typical BlackTrax installation, BTSensors would be hung in the air around a tracking area with a view from above. For Samsung, however, this was not an option due to the size and placement of the LED screen. After working with several possible solutions, the team finally settled on a custom camera design consisting of 10 ground-mounted and 6 ceiling-mounted BTSensors.With that issue resolved, the team then moved on to the next challenge: accounting for multiple (four or more) participants taking part in the experience at once, which could lead to occlusion from the BTSensors to the spray cans being tracked. To overcome this, the team placed the ground-mounted BTSensors strategically close together so that the cans near the bottom of the screen would always be tracked, even in the presence of multiple spray cans being used in the same area simultaneously.Another challenge in this project was that of latency: as with any application involving LED walls, inherent latency inevitably becomes a concern as they are not all built for real-time use. The initial suggested approach was to use a capture card to capture the game running on the Graffiti server, then output it to the LED Screen through a media server. In testing, however, this path led to an undesirable amount of latency, so a video switcher was used instead to enable the Graffiti server to connect direct to the screen for the Graffiti experience. This led to the best user experience where at the click of the spray can paint button, the virtual spray happened almost instantaneously on the wall.The resulting BlackTrax setup consisted of 16 BTSensors placed around the space, 10 BTBeacons – one for each spray can, and 3 Stringers embedded into each spray can for optimal tracking. In order to perfectly fulfill Tangible and Samsung’s vision, three-point rigid bodies were created in BlackTrax on each spray can to provide the most accurate 6D positional and rotational information. This allowed for a realistic spraying experience that reflected the tilting of the can at different angles relative to the screen, affecting the behavior of the virtual spray in real time. With covert placement of Sensors, customized Stringer colors and built-in Beacons, the BlackTrax system remained inconspicuous inside the store, keeping the Galaxy Graffiti wall and Tangible’s creations as the main attractions.Opening Day The Samsung KX space opened its doors to visitors on July 31st, 2019. Dekkar Densham, Team Lead of Special Projects at BlackTrax, visited the site soon after its opening: “It was great to see artists and non-artists alike come together at the Galaxy Graffiti space to take advantage of this exciting and accessible technology. The experience was simple, straightforward and required no explanation: people came in, saw the graffiti wall, grabbed a spray can, and just started painting.” The cumulative efforts of Samsung, Cheil, Tangible and BlackTrax remain on display at King’s Cross, London for all to see and play around with. Olson and his team at Tangible are “always looking to create installations that bring people together,” and this graffiti was the perfect example of the type of realistic experiences that can be dreamed and accomplished when artists and technologies work together.With ambition, creativity and technology working hand in hand, the results can be stunning. In addition to displaying the potentials of artists and technologies, interactive displays and installations convey a sense of what it means to be a community in the modern age, and BlackTrax is proud to have played an instrumental part in realizing this vision.https://www.blacktrax.ca https://www.tangibleinteraction.comlast_img read more

October 1, 2008 Letters

first_imgOctober 1, 2008 Letters October 1, 2008 Letters Letters Moral Compass I read “The Colonel’s Moral Compass” article in the September 1 News. The attorney/soldier could not go on with prosecuting a Guantanamo Bay detainee because it was his opinion that the detainee was coerced into a confession.I’m not writing to make a judgment about the lt. colonel’s decision. I’m concerned that only one perspective was presented. From a 1L’s first day of class through actual trials, lawyers deal in a world of critically examining opposing viewpoints. The article only provides one perspective while leaving others out.The legal status of detainees and interrogation techniques are hotly contested current issues which are open to debate. Because the article was published during this critical election period, and because it mentioned Congress, it would be nice to have the opportunity to read a story from another perspective. Perhaps the News can do a story of Guantanamo Bay officers whose moral compass requires them to prosecute the detainees.Stephen Fulton Shaw Silver Springs Bank Failures Having just read the September 1 News story “If the bank fails, what happens to trust accounts” and the Bar’s response, or lack thereof, to this very real and potential problem, it is with dismay that I write these words.The notion that lawyers, with all the obligations we now have to our clients, our profession, and to the public at large, may also need to ascertain the financial stability of the licensed financial institution we select to house our attorney trust accounts, strikes me as nothing short of preposterous.How or why the Bar would even entertain the idea that lawyers may be responsible for client trust funds over and above FDIC limits housed in a failed financial institution is indeed troubling. Perhaps the Bar believes that real estate lawyers such as myself who regularly close large dollar transactions should establish dozens of trust accounts and require parties to wire funds in increments of $100,000 or less to institutions all over the state for every transaction. Yeah, right.And to those Bar members who could not make such an obvious determination with regard to a lawyer’s liability: I’d like you to opine as to the stability of the financial institutions where you keep your trust accounts. Of the 80,000 lawyers in this state, I would defy even one to accurately decipher the financials of any major banking institution.Check the ratings services while you’re at it, the same ratings services that assured investors in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac just weeks ago that these companies were solid. Then ask yourselves just how or why you should be liable for your bank’s failure.Stephen A. Baker St. Pete Beach Palsgraff In the development of the law concerning liability for acts of negligence, one of the thorniest issues was how to limit the scope of responsibilities to parties within reasonable foreseeability. In other words how far should a defendant be held responsible for injuries not reasonably foreseen when the negligence occurred.One of the most bizarre decisions in this field is the case of Palsgraff v. Long Island Railroad. The essential facts are to the effect that an individual boarding a LIRR train in Jamaica, NY, was either pushed or jostled while boarding and dropped a package, containing explosives, which detonated, the shock wave causing a set of scales some distance down the platform to fall over, landing on Palsgraff and causing her injury. Whether the fellow carrying the package had a bomb or fireworks is not clear. The incident occurred in the 1920s when anarchy was fashionable.In any event there was apparently some involvement of an LIRR employee in the jostling, hence a suggestion of culpability on the part of the railroad. Despite the “Rube Goldberg” nature of the event, the courts solemnly considered various doctrines of the law of negligence in evaluating whether the railroad should be held liable for Mrs. P’s injuries. Was the nature of the event too far-fetched, beyond foreseeability for liability to attach or should that not be a consideration? A conundrum to devil law students for years to come.I often thought that this issue was given an excessive amount of consideration, in view of the unlikely possibility of similar circumstances arising, that was until Janos walked into my office in 1964. It seemed that there had been some extensive road repair and ditching under construction in the area of Sarasota County known as Fruitville, and in accordance with contract requirements the contractor had erected barriers (sometimes called saw horses) as necessary and topped them with battery-powered flashing yellow lights. Unfortunately on one of these barriers the battery had failed and the light was out. Janos, having imbibed quite a bit at the local pub, was riding his bicycle home; the flashlight attached to the handlebars aimed at the roadway in front of him so as to reveal obstacles. Suddenly he ran out of road and fell into a 15 foot ditch, sustaining serious injuries. The immediate question that comes to mind is: Didn’t the barrier bar his passage so that he couldn’t have fallen in the ditch, light or no light?This is where the question of foresee- ability arises; you see, Janos was an acrobat employed by the Ringling Brothers Circus and stood barely three feet tall. He was riding on a little bicycle designed for little people and passed under the barrier and fell into the ditch. His contention was that if the light had been working he would have been warned and would not have fallen, and since Fruitville was the community where the Ringling Circus winter quartered, the barriers should have been more substantial, since the possibility of drunken circus little people on bicycles should have been foreseen by the contractor.Randy Ludacer Lake Placid Character and Fitness In a September 1 letter on the topic of character and fitness for admission to the Bar, William Sumner Scott of Miami suggests that “to try to teach music majors any law subject” is a difficult task at best. I have a masters degree in music composition from Northwestern University and, after graduating from Stetson University College of Law, have been successfully practicing labor and employment law for over 20 years. I take issue with his criticism that music majors, math majors, and history majors lack a “solid education” and thus are not equipped for the legal profession and its challenges. Many fine attorneys majored in those fields of study during their undergraduate work and routinely “speak truth to power.”Marcia S. Cohen St. Petersburglast_img read more

Women’s Foundation of PB hosts fundraiser

first_img May 15, 2011 Regular News Women’s Foundation of PB hosts fundraiser W omen’s Foundation of PB hosts fundraiser The Women’s Foundation of Palm Beach County hosted its inaugural Raise the Bar event at the Historic Palm Beach County Courthouse in West Palm Beach.More than 250 business and legal professionals attended the networking event, which raised $20,000 to provide scholarships to girls in middle school to high school to attend the Girls’ Leadership Institute, which is presented by the foundation.“This event was such a great success, we doubled our fundraising goal,” said Samantha Schosberg Feuer, co-founder and board member of the Women’s Foundation of Palm Beach County. “Not only did 100 girls get to go to the Girl’s Leadership Institute in mid-April, we now have raised awareness among so many influential individuals in the community and hope they will spread the word about how we empower women and girls to become leaders in the community.”“We couldn’t have asked for a better turnout to the inaugural Raise the Bar event,” said Nicole Atkinson of Gunster and co-chair of the event. “Everyone who attended truly made an investment in the future of our youth. The young women who are now able attend the Girls’ Leadership Institute will walk away with pride, self-esteem, and tools, which will help them succeed in whatever they pursue.”This event was made possible through the support of Carlton Fields, FPL, Next Era, Greenberg Traurig, Gunster, Lesser Lesser Landy & Smith, Akerman, Becker & Poliakoff, Fox Rothschild, Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhardt & Shipley, Holland & Knight, ARC Mediation, Cake Kingdom, McCabe Rabin, and Squire Sanders.last_img read more

Perfectionists become more neurotic and less conscientious as time passes

first_imgShare Share on Facebook As a clinical psychologist in the department of psychology and neuroscience at Dalhousie University and a lecturer in research methods at York St John University, together we have extensive experience in understanding, assessing, treating and studying perfectionism.We are greatly troubled by what we see.We believe there is an urgent need for prevention efforts — to reduce the harsh and controlling parenting practices and socio-cultural influences, such as unrealistic media images, that contribute to perfectionism. Interventions for distressed perfectionists are also clearly needed.Millennials are sufferingTo gain a more complete understanding of perfectionism, we conducted a large-scale meta-analysis involving 77 studies and nearly 25,000 participants. Around two thirds of these participants were female and many were Caucasian university students from western nations (such as Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom). Our participants ranged in age from 15 to 49.We found today’s young people are more perfectionist than ever before. In fact, we found perfectionism has increased substantially since 1990. This means millennials struggle with perfectionism more than previous generations — a finding that mirrors past research.The causes of perfectionism are complex. Increases in perfectionism come, at least in part, from today’s dog-eat-dog world, where rank and performance count excessively and winning and self-interest are emphasized.Controlling and critical parents also hover too close in raising their children, which fosters perfectionism’s development. With social media posts showcasing unrealistically “perfect” lives and glossy advertisements depicting unobtainable standards of perfection, millennials are surrounded by too many yardsticks upon which to measure their success and failure. Keeping up with the Joneses has never been harder. Pinterest We recently conducted one of the largest-ever studies on perfectionism. We learned that perfectionism has increased substantially over the past 25 years and that it affects men and women equally.We also learned that perfectionists become more neurotic and less conscientious as time passes.Perfectionism involves striving for flawlessness and requiring perfection of oneself and others. Extremely negative reactions to mistakes, harsh self-criticism, nagging doubt about performance abilities and a strong sense that others are critical and demanding also define the trait. LinkedIncenter_img Email Share on Twitter Read more:Fairy-tale social media fantasies can demolish your confidence, but it’s not all bad This epidemic of perfectionism in modern western societies is a serious, even deadly, problem. Perfectionism is robustly linked in the research to anxiety, stress, depression, eating disorders and suicide.As perfectionists age, they unravelWe also found that, as perfectionists grow older, they appear to unravel. Their personalities become more neurotic (more prone to negative emotions like guilt, envy and anxiety) and less conscientious (less organized, efficient, reliable and disciplined).Pursuing perfection — a goal that is intangible, fleeting and rare — may result in a higher rate of failures and a lower rate of successes that leaves perfectionists more likely to neurotically stew about their imperfections and less likely to conscientiously pursue their goals.Overall, then, our results suggest life does not get easier for perfectionists. In a challenging, messy and imperfect world, perfectionists may burn out as they age, leaving them more unstable and less diligent.Our findings also revealed men and women report similar levels of perfectionism.This suggests modern western societies do not involve gender-specific pressure to be perfect. Gender roles appear to allow (or to encourage) both men and women to strive for perfection.Future research should test if men strive for perfection based more on achievement motives (such as competing for resources) and women strive for perfection based more on relationship motives (such as pleasing other people).Unconditional love is an antidotePerfectionism is a major, deadly epidemic in modern western societies that is seriously under-recognized, with many distressed perfectionists concealing their imperfections from those who might be able to help (such as psychologists, teachers or family doctors).We need to respond to the perfectionism epidemic at the parental and the cultural level.Parents need to be less controlling, critical and overprotective of their children — teaching their children to tolerate and to learn from their mistakes while emphasizing hard work and discipline over the unrealistic pursuit of perfection.Unconditional love — where parents value children for more than their performance, rank or appearance — seems as good an antidote to perfectionism as any.Perfectionism is a myth and social media is its storyteller. We need to teach a healthy skepticism toward the suspiciously “perfect” lives promoted through social media posts and mainstream media advertisements. Unrealistic images achieved through photo-shopping, airbrushing and filters are less compelling once you learn the game is rigged.By Simon Sherry, Professor, Clinical Psychologist, and Director of Clinical Training in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Dalhousie University and Martin M. Smith, Lecturer in Research Methods, York St John UniversityThis article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.last_img read more

Federal inspectors say outside pressures hurt food safety

first_img About 38% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that public health has been hurt by agency practices that defer to business interests. Twenty-seven percent said they had personally experienced instances when businesses withheld food safety information from agency investigators in the past year. A quarter responded that they knew of instances when corporate interests forced their agency to pull or revise policies or actions that were designed to protect consumers in the past year. At a press conference today, Francesca Grifo, director of the UCS’s Scientific Integrity Program, said the interference that hundreds of food safety inspectors reported is bad for public health. “Both the administration and Congress need to act,” she said in a press release. The Iowa State University (ISU) Center for Survey Statistics conducted the poll for UCS, a nonprofit health and safety group based in Washington, DC. News that a number of federal food safety workers feel outside pressure in their work comes amid a major investigation into a national spike in Salmonella Enteritidis infections, which has triggered the nation’s largest egg recall. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said about 1,500 illnesses have been linked to the outbreak so far. Dean Wyatt, a USDA veterinarian who supervises slaughterhouse inspectors, said in the UCS statement that the agency retaliates against inspectors who document legitimate safety violations. “Upper level management does not adequately support field inspectors and the actions they take to protect the food supply,” he said. “Not only is there lack of support, but there’s outright obstruction, retaliation, and abuse of power.” ISU researchers conducted a Web-based survey of 7,911 federal food safety workers from the US Department of Agriculture and FDA that were identified from online public records. The 67-item survey was conducted from early April through May 20, 2010. They received 1,710 responses for a response rate of 21.62%. Grifo said respondents overwhelmingly said stronger whistleblower protections for inspectors and regulators would improve food safety. They also voiced support for other reforms, many of which are included in the passed House bill and the proposed Senate bill, such as requiring companies to conduct hazard analyses and implement prevention programs and improving the system for tracing food products. Sep 13 UCS press release Sep 13, 2010 (CIDRAP News) – Many federal food safety workers say their work has been hampered by corporate interests, political pressure, and influence from other groups, according to a survey released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).center_img More than 100 respondents said agencies asked them to delete or change scientific information, the UCS report said. For example, 16% said they saw officials selectively use data to justify a particular regulatory outcome. Ten percent said their agencies had asked them to exclude or change information or conclusions in scientific documents. They said interference has decreased slightly under the Obama administration compared with the Bush years. The Obama administration could address some of the outside influence concerns raised in the survey by releasing a scientific integrity directive that the president promised more than a year ago, Grifo said. She added that the directive would protect whistleblowers, ensure that scientists and inspectors can speak freely about their work, and order agencies to release visitor logs to document visits to agency management. Similarly, when researchers asked if Congress or “nongovernmental groups” had forced their agency to withdraw or change food safety policies or actions in the past year, 24% and 22% said yes, respectively. See also: Fallout from the recall and outbreak have also put pressure on the Senate to pass its version of food safety legislation, which would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new authorities and tools to prevent and respond to foodborne illness outbreaks. The US House of Representatives passed its version of the legislation in July 2009, but action on the Senate version has been stalled since then. UCS/Iowa State University food safety scientist surveylast_img read more

Another case of local Zika infection confirmed in Miami

first_imgThe Florida Department of Health (Florida Health) confirmed yesterday that there was another case of locally spread Zika in Miami, this time outside of the Wynwood neighborhood. This brings the total locally transmitted cases to 15.Natalie Spindle, a public information office for Florida Health, said investigations into the origins of the new case were still ongoing this morning.”We still believe active transmission is only occurring in Wynwood,” she told CIDRAP News. “But this case comes from outside of that neighborhood. We’re doing questioning now and will let everyone know when we have more answers.”Local transmission of Zika virus was first confirmed late last week in the Wynwood neighborhood just north of downtown Miami. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel advisory on Monday, warning pregnant women to stay away from that area.In addition to local transmission, there have been 336 cases of travel-related Zika in Florida, and 55 cases in pregnant women. Infection with Zika during pregnancy can lead to severe birth defects, including microcephaly.In a daily update yesterday, Florida Health said officials were testing people living in a 150-meter radius around known cases. Aedes mosquitoes are not known to travel more than 150 meters. Florida Health said officials are still going door to door in Wynwood to gather samples and inform community members about mosquito prevention.In light of the new case, the CDC and Florida Health said yesterday they will begin aerial spraying with naled, an insecticide, in Miami. While naled is safe and effective in spraying against some types of mosquitoes, critics have warned that it does little to deter Aedes. But CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in an Aug 1 news conference that ground spraying has been infective in reducing Aedes populations in Miami. “Aerial treatment of areas with products that rapidly reduce both young and adult mosquitoes is a possible way to limit the number of mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus,” Benjamin Haynes, a CDC spokesman, told CIDRAP News today.Spraying was supposed to begin today in a 10-mile area around Wynwood, but it was canceled because of weather, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a statement. The mosquito-control team will try again tonight or tomorrow morning.Human trials to begin on NIH vaccineIn related news, today the National Institutes of Health announced the launch of a phase 1 clinical trial of VRC 319, a Zika vaccine candidate. The trial will test safety and immune response in 80 healthy adults at three sites in the United States. Results are expected in January 2017.”NIAID worked expeditiously to ready a vaccine candidate, and results in animal testing have been very encouraging. We are pleased that we are now able to proceed with this initial study in people. Although it will take some time before a vaccine against Zika is commercially available, the launch of this study is an important step forward,” said National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Directory Anthony Fauci, MD in a statement.VRC 319 is a DNA vaccine and does not contain the Zika virus. Instead, it contains plasmid, a small circular piece of DNA, that’s injected into a participant’s arm. The genetic information triggers the body to make Zika virus proteins. The proteins illicit an immune system response, triggering virus-neutralizing antibodies in participants.”A team of scientists here at NIAID worked tirelessly to rapidly develop this vaccine for clinical testing,” said John Mascola, MD, director of NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center. “DNA or gene-based vaccines induce antibodies, but they also can activate the cell-mediated immune response, which ultimately could yield strong and durable protection against disease.”Travel, mosquito, military developmentsThe CDC announced a travel restriction today to Antigua and Barbuda as well as to Turks and Caicos Islands. Travelers recently returning from the islands have sexually transmitted the Zika virus, according to a CDC statement. The level 2 travel notice recommends practicing “enhanced precautions,” including avoiding nonessential travel if you are pregnant, or you or your partner wants to get pregnant in the near future.The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) published two new maps today showing Aedes mosquito activities in Europe. The maps show where Ae albopictus and Ae aegypti population have been found. Both mosquitoes can transmit viruses, including Zika and dengue. The EDCD said in a news release that there are reports of Ae aegypti in Turkey, and established Ae albopictus populations in Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Italy and Turkey.Thirty-three US military service members, including one pregnant woman, have been diagnosed as having Zika virus infection, according to the Pentagon. At least six family members of the servicemen and women contracted Zika. Since about 80% of Zika cases are unreported and asymptomatic, the total number of military personnel infected is probably much higher, the Pentagon said.See also:Aug 2 Florida Health updateAug 2 Miami-Dade County release on spraying Aug 3 Mayor Gimenez’s statementAug 3 NIH press releaseCDC’s Zika travel informationlast_img read more

School News

first_imgSag HarborPierson junior Thaily Ribadeneira Amaguay (center) performed with friends and family from the Ecuadorian Amazon Basin at Sag Harbor’s Multicultural Festival. Independent/Sag Harbor School DistrictPierson High School held its annual Multicultural Festival to showcase the community’s culture, heritage, and customs on March 22.The evening featured cuisine and performances, including bagpipe music, a martial arts demonstration, the Bridgehampton marimba ensemble, Sbu Taiko Tides Japanese drummers, Ecuadorian dancers, and the Shinnecock youth dancers.SouthamptonThe Southampton School District is accepting applications for its prekindergarten program. Registration for children, who will turn four before December 1, is available Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 9 AM to 3 PM. For an appointment, contact the district registrar at 631-591-5417.The Southampton High School hosted a college fair on March 26 for sophomores and juniors to talk to college representatives from more than 100 colleges and universities about campus life, academic offerings, financial aid, and the admissions process.TuckahoeStudents and staff at the Tuckahoe School anticipated a recent visit from children’s author and illustrator, Patricia Polacco. The eighth graders prepared for her visit by participating in an in-depth study of the books, “The Butterfly” and “Tucky Jo and Little Heart.” Both are true stories set in World War II.English, art, and social studies classes teamed up to explore the World War II era, create found poetry, and portray symbolism through watercolor paintings inspired by the history, characters, and illustrations found in Polacco’s books.Prekindergarten and kindergarten registration for district residents is ongoing. Call the main office at 631-283-3550 for more information.Hampton BaysTony Valderrama of the Quogue Wildlife Refuge visited with Hampton Bays kindergartners to teach them about different animal species. Independent/Hampton Bays School DistrictHampton Bays kindergartners learned about animals that live at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge on March 28. Tony Valderrama, an environmental educator with the refuge, introduced students to several animal species, including a corn snake, a bearded dragon, a chinchilla, and an owl, to teach them about their habitats, prey, and life cycles.Two Hampton Bays High School science research students had the opportunity to present their research at Plum Island’s first STEM Student Forum on March 27.Junior Riley Stotzky and senior Ava Bianchi were among a selection of students from across Long Island who exhibited their work to leading researchers at Plum Island. Stotzky explored influenza for her project, while Bianchi analyzed alpha-gal syndrome.“This was a great event,” said science research teacher Dr. Stephanie Forsberg. “Our students represented Hampton Bays well and helped highlight our research program with the top epidemiologists and scientists in the nation.”Westhampton BeachWesthampton Beach High School junior Emily Arpino received a Prudential Spirit of Community Award for spearheading a breast cancer awareness and fundraising project. Independent/Westhampton Beach School DistrictWesthampton Beach Elementary School hosted the 21st annual math, science, and technology fair on March 21.Students in first through fifth grades showcased a variety of topics from germ-free hands and yeast activation to sound blockers and ripening bananas. Fair winners were Luke Atkinson, kindergarten; Evan Pereya, first grade; Mary Rose Atkinson, second grade; Jack Ribbons, third grade; Gabriel Monserrate, fourth grade; and Rhylee Kirchner, fifth grade.The winning students are now eligible to compete in Brookhaven National Laboratory’s annual Elementary Science Fair Competition on May 4.Westhampton Beach High School junior Emily Arpino received a Prudential Spirit of Community Award for recently spearheading a breast cancer awareness and fundraising project. A varsity cheerleader, Arpino sold homemade pink cheerleading bows, which she adorned with breast cancer ribbon decals and rhinestones, to cheer teams across Long Island. Arpino raised $4280 for the LI2Day Walk, which will take place on June 8.RiverheadThe Riverhead Administrators Association will host its annual Run to Remember 5K Walk/Run on May 19 at 9 AM at Riverhead High School.The event aims to offer healing, love, and support by celebrating the memories of deceased loved ones. Memorial boards will be on display in the high school gymnasium along with coffee, food, and free raffle giveaways to registered runners. All funds raised will be donated to the high school senior class scholarship fund. A free kids run will kick off at 9 AM with the memorial run starting at 9:30 AM.To register, visit www.riverheadr2r.com. Sharelast_img read more