Mini legislative session
Anyone who wants to get a feeling for the game plan for the next legislative session need only pay attention to the news cycle this week. The House representatives will be back in force at the Statehouse in what amounts to a pre-session huddle, and the Shumlin administration is holding four press conferences, two of which will likely play instructions for legislative action.
First off, the House Appropriations Committee is meeting all week to take up the Budget Adjustment Act proposal from the administration. Jim Reardon, commissioner of the Department of Finance and Management will be meeting with the committee (and separately with reporters) to explain the governor’s position and present spreadsheets. Front and center will be Irene-related costs, trends in Medicaid use and Corrections costs.
The House and Senate Institutions Committees are meeting today to take testimony from Larry Cassidy, the special assistant for the Agency of Administration (and a longtime friend of Gov. Peter Shumlin) on the Waterbury State Office complex. Then they’ll hear from Michael Obuchowski, commissioner of the Department of Buildings and General Services to discuss the budget adjustment process for the Capital Bill, which will bear the brunt of the costs for new facilities for the 1,500 employees who were displaced by the flood that inundated the Waterbury facility Aug. 28 when Tropical Storm Irene swamped central and southern Vermont.
The Mental Health Oversight Committee will likely take up plans for the Vermont State Hospital on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in Room 11. The governor is holding a presser shortly afterward on the Fifth Floor, and after hinting that there will be an imminent big announcement about the hospital last week, it’s a good bet that the administration may make the ultimate destination for the facility the subject of the meeting with reporters.
Three committees – House Human Services, Natural Resources and Energy, and Ways and Means — will meet 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in the House Chamber to discuss the future of LIHEAP, which has been slashed in half by President Barack Obama.
On Wednesday, the Post-Irene Property Law Task Force formed by John Campbell, the President Pro Tem of the Senate, will meet to talk about legal issues around property loss in the wake of Irene and the impact on mortgages, property lines and taxes.
On Thursday, House Government Operations is holding what will likely be a barn-burner of a meeting on reapportionment at 6 p.m. at the Burlington High School Auditorium. The Legislative Apportionment Board basically punted redistricting in the Queen City, leaving it up to the Legislature to decide how to divide up the districts.
And last but not least, the Public Records Legislative Study Committee will be meeting at 9:30 a.m. in Room 11 to discuss the exemptions to the public records law.
Vermonters are healthy, but spend more per capita on medical care than national average
Two recent reports show Vermont is doing all right healthwise.
First, according to a study by the United Health Foundation, Vermont was ranked the healthiest state in the nation.
The state has steadily risen in the rankings for the last 13 years from a ranking of 17th in 1997 and 1998, according to the study.
This year, Vermont ranked among the top 10 healthiest states in 15 of 23 public health measures relating to behaviors, community and environment, health policies, clinical care and health outcomes.
Vermont’s strengths include its No. 1 position for all health determinants combined, which includes ranking in the top 10 states for a high rate of high school graduation, a low violent crime rate, a low rate of infectious disease, a high usage of early prenatal care, high per capita public health funding, a low rate of uninsured population and ready availability of primary care physicians.
Vermont fell short in three areas with: 91.2 percent of children ages 19 to 35 months receiving recommended immunizations, relatively high occupational fatalities at 4.3 deaths per 100,000 workers and a high prevalence of binge drinking at 17.1 percent of the population.
In another study, by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on health care spending per capita, the centers found Vermont had slower rates of growth in personal health care spending than the national average. That is spending on health care per capita in Vermont rose 4.1 percent from 2004 to 2009, compared to the national average of 4.7 percent. Personal health care spending includes the total amount spent to treat individuals with specific medical conditions. On the other hand, Vermont was one of three states where hospital spending grew more than 2 percentage points faster than the national average in hospital spending.
Vermont’s per capita spending on health care was $7,635 for 2009, about $800 more than the national average.
Economic value of RGGI? $22 million
According to a November report, the nation’s first greenhouse gas cap-and-trade regime brought about $22 million into the Vermont economy so far.
The study by the Analysis Group analyzed the impacts of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — a partnership among 10 states that auctions off the right to emit carbon dioxide. The program started in 2009. It requires power plants to buy carbon dioxide allowances. The analysis tracked proceeds of dollars paid into the program to buy allowances.
The $22 million figure represents the actual economic value added to the state economy, and therefore does not include the costs of goods purchased from or manufactured outside of the state or region. According to the study, RGGI also created an increase in employment of 195 job years. That means the equivalent of one full-time job for one year.
Revenues from RGGI that flow directly to the state go to funding Vermont’s energy efficiency utility. According to the report, about $6.5 million went to funding energy efficiency and other utility programs.
Editor’s note: We corrected a headline that stated Vermont has the highest health insurance costs. This was inaccurate. Vermonters pay more on health care than the national average.