Wednesday, January 29, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 29, 2014

A new report is pointing out what it calls insufficient cost controls in Vermont’s school funding system.  The report was written by economists at Northern Economic Consulting of Westford, and says education spending is up to 70-percent above the national average.  The report was unveiled yesterday by Vermont Realtors, which represents the state’s real estate industry, and is concerned about local school property tax bills.  Voters will be considering local school budgets in Town Meeting Day elections in March, and many communities are seeing a big jump in tax rates.

The Vermont Education Agency has launched a new website to help schools and students develop personalized learning plans.  Governor Peter Shumlin and education officials discussed the new statewide initiative earlier today CVU High School.  Based on legislation passed last year, each student will have a personalized learning plan that matches career interests with their learning, and could include internships and college courses.  The plans will be reviewed and possibly revamped each year.  Schools will develop plans with 7th and 9th graders in 2015.

Governor Cuomo announced today that New York is the 3rd largest producer of milk in the country.  A press release says compared to 2012, New York's milk production increased by 2.2% in 2013.  There was 0.4% growth nationwide.  The growth is attributed to an increased demand for milk, largely due to the booming yogurt industry in the state. New York is also the number one producer of cream cheese and cottage cheese in the country.  The dairy industry is New York’s leading agricultural sector, accounting for more than one-half of the state’s total agricultural receipts.

The leader of the Progressive Party caucus in the Vermont House of Representatives says Vermont needs an “economic bill of rights.”  Representative Chris Pearson says this year Progressives and liberal members of the Vermont Democratic Party will work together to increase the minimum wage while requiring paid sick leave and paid family leave.  Pearson is supporting a bill raising the minimum wage to 15-dollars an hour which he says at least begins to approach a livable income.

The Vermont House is taking up legislation expanding a popular program allowing property owners to generate their own electricity and sell some of it back to their utilities.  State law now caps the amount of power a utility is expected to take under such arrangements at 4 percent of the companies' peak power demand.  The bill would expand that to 15 percent.