Vermont business leaders this week met with Susan Collins, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, at King Arthur Baking Company in White River Junction as part of Collins’ ongoing visits around New England to gauge economic conditions.
The meeting was convened by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.
“Reaching out to and interacting with a range of stakeholders has been a priority for me since joining the Boston Fed last year,” stated Collins in a news release. “The views my team and I hear from around the New England region provide an important window into how well the economy is functioning for everyone.”
Business leaders reflected on the impact of inflation on wage growth and the move toward automation amid the inability to hire workers, as well as the lingering impacts of the pandemic on the economy, according to the news release.
“Revenue is up this year, however, expenses are also up. We have consistently increased our base wages between 20% and 30% each year for the past two or three years,” stated Lindsay DesLauriers, of Bolton Valley. “Our operating expenses have also gone up significantly with inflation, so that we are actually behind last year right now on the bottom line.”
“The inability to recruit and retain talent means we can’t fully staff a second shift, let alone add a third shift,” stated Alberto Aguilar, of Carris Reels. “Instead, to meet demand we’re exploring how to invest in automation which is becoming crucial to the ability for us to sustain our manufacturing operations here in Vermont.”
Among other business leaders in attendance were Karen Colberg, of King Arthur Baking Company; Mark Foley, of Foley Services; Jay Benson, of Simon Pearce; Leslie McCrorey Wells, of Pizzeria Verità; Neale Lunderville, of Vermont Gas; Melvin and Demaris Hall, of Global Village; Dr. Sunil Eappen, of UVM Medical Center; and Renee Bourget-Place, of KPMG-Vermont.
U.S. Sen. Peter Welch is accepting applications for Congressionally Directed Spending projects.
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee authorizes each senator to request Congressionally Directed Spending projects for possible inclusion in the fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills.
Constituents may suggest projects for Welch to request by filling out a survey at www.welch.senate.gov/congressionally-directed-spending-requests online.
The survey will be open until Thursday, March 16, at 11:59 p.m.
Good news for the state’s transportation sector.
For the first time in over two years, average diesel prices in the U.S. on Friday fell below their year-ago levels, according to GasBuddy.
Diesel prices have declined nearly $1.50 per gallon since reaching record levels last spring and now stand at an average of $4.35 per gallon, the lowest level since the days immediately after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, noted, “Coming out of winter, we’ll continue to see diesel prices decline. Barring an unexpected disruption or escalation in global events, diesel prices this summer could be $2 per gallon lower than last summer, which is certainly good news for the economy and transportation sectors stung by the previous high costs of diesel fuel.”
According to GasBuddy, retail diesel prices are likely to continue falling as demand continues to ease and winter heating oil consumption declines.
U.S. Sen. Peter Welch this week delivered a letter to President Joe Biden, voicing his concern for the future of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and urging the Biden administration to make assertive efforts to end the cycle of violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians.
Following a recent congressional delegation visit to Israel, during which the senators met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Welch, a Democrat, expressed his increasing concerns about the current Israeli government’s apparent lack of commitment to advancing the two-state solution and protecting peace and prosperity in the region.
“It is time to acknowledge what is painfully apparent: as far as the Netanyahu government is concerned, the two-state solution is dead,” wrote Welch. “I am gravely concerned that Mr. Netanyahu’s regime dismisses the long-term security threat his government’s policy of de facto annexation poses to Israel. If this policy continues, our advocacy for the two-state solution is meaningless. Despite increasing obstacles, the two-state solution must be reinvigorated.”
Welch has long called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was an original cosponsor of the Two-State Solution Act.
Leahy named UVM fellow
Former U.S. senator Patrick Leahy has been appointed to the position of President’s Distinguished Fellow at the University of Vermont.
Leahy, of Middlesex, will participate in campus activities with a special focus on the numerous program areas for which he was a tireless advocate for Vermont.
“My career, my family, and my most proud moments are all centered here, in Vermont,” Leahy said. “What better place to continue my work for Vermont than on this great university’s campus? UVM has a special place in our hearts, and Marcelle and I look forward to benefitting from the company of many of the brightest minds in our state and the next generations of promising leaders.”
As President’s Distinguished Fellow, Leahy will contribute to UVM’s mission by participating in the launch of research, academic and engagement projects initiated through his efforts while in Congress. He will be available as an adviser to students and faculty members, a guest lecturer in classes and at public events, and a conduit between the university and organizations and communities in all corners of the state, according to a news release.
Jump right in
Animal Wellness Action and Center for a Humane Economy this week applauded Rep. Conor Casey, Washington-4, for introducing legislation to stop athletic shoe companies from sourcing kangaroo skins for soccer cleat models.
The freshman Democratic lawmaker from Montpelier introduced H.459 — the fifth state bill this year to address this distinct wildlife exploitation problem, building on similar legislation in Arizona, Connecticut, New Jersey and Oregon, according to a news release.
“Given the innovations in design and fabrics, there’s absolutely no reason for Nike and Adidas to continue sourcing kangaroo skins from animals killed in their native habitats,” said Casey. “I was staggered to hear that 2 million kangaroos are killed a year, including half a million of the juveniles, mainly for use as soccer cleats. These companies can do better.”
The bill is currently in the House Committee on Environment and Energy.
The following is part of a statement from Vermont Association of Hospital and Health Systems President and CEO Mike Del Trecco in response to the recent federal ruling in New Hampshire regarding the practice of boarding patients in need of mental health services in hospital emergency departments:
“(VAHHS) represents Vermont’s network of entirely non-profit hospitals. We work tirelessly with state leaders, lawmakers and other health care stakeholders to improve Vermont’s mental health system. Our focus is to ensure every Vermonter gets the care they need when they need it and in the right care setting. Too often, patients languish in our emergency departments for lack of access to appropriate and therapeutic mental health services. This impacts their care as well as the care of other patients in need of those emergency department beds. It also impacts our staff greatly and drives up costs for hospitals,” he said in the statement.
“A federal judge declared (New Hampshire’s) practice of involuntarily holding psychiatric patients in emergency departments unconstitutional. We experience the same challenges with patients who need inpatient psychiatric care, but are being boarded in our emergency departments, unable to be transferred for lack of available beds. We are working hard to find solutions that can benefit the patients and staff who deal with these situations daily.”
The Vermont Conservation Voters released its federal delegation’s scores for the League of Conservation Voters’ 2022 National Environmental Scorecard, highlighting our delegation’s action to protect our environment and democracy, and build a clean energy future.
Since 1970, the LCV’s Scorecard has been the primary yardstick for evaluating the environmental records of members of Congress.
It is available for download at scorecard.lcv.org online.
“We are proud to have representatives that will stand up for our state’s health and environment,” said Justin Marsh, political outreach director, Vermont Conservation Voters.
The 2022 Scorecard includes 23 votes in the Senate; 19 votes in the House. The full delegation’s scores for 2022 are:
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy: 91% (94% lifetime)
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders: 100% (91% lifetime)
Rep. Peter Welch: 95% (95% lifetime)
U.S. Sens. Peter Welch and Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, and Rep. Julia Brownley, D-California, this week introduced legislation to lower costs for veterans traveling to receive medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
According to a news release, by increasing the VA’s travel reimbursement rate, the Driver Reimbursement Increase for Veteran Equity Act will make it easier for veterans to receive essential health care and ensure reimbursement rates keep pace with future inflation and fluctuations in gas prices. The bill is important for veterans from small and rural communities, many of whom travel long distances to receive essential medical care through the VA.
The DRIVE Act requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure the Beneficiary Travel reimbursement rate is at least equal to the General Services Administration reimbursement rate for federal employees who use their personal vehicles for official business.
ACLU issues letter
In a letter sent to Vermont lawmakers, the ACLU is urging the Legislature to reject a Scott administration request for a $15.5 million downpayment on prison construction to replace and expand the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility.
The administration’s initial price tag for the project is $71 million, a news release by the ACLU states.
“The proposal does not include any options for smaller, lower-cost, community-based programs, or account for further reductions to Vermont’s prison population through criminal justice reform, as the ACLU and other stakeholders have advocated. Proposals to replace additional prison facilities could cost taxpayers half a billion dollars or more,” the release states.
“The people of Vermont want to invest in people, not prisons. We want investments in affordable housing, child care, public education, and other priorities that are essential for community well-being,” said ACLU of Vermont Executive Director James Lyall. “By contrast, this fiscally irresponsible plan disregards Vermonters’ views and values and jeopardizes the tremendous progress we have made in reducing our overreliance on incarceration.”
The Cannabis Retailers Association of Vermont launched a new business association this week.
The new group will focus exclusively on policies they believe are critical for their sustained success.
According to a news release, 21 states have established a legal market for cannabis in the United States. The Vermont group has identified several key policy issues they intend to focus on immediately.
“In many of these states, there have been difficulties in creating a sustainable cannabis market. The uncertainty has made it even more difficult for many independently owned-companies. The group will work with elected officials and regulators to help ensure the industry evolves in a way that supports small, Vermont-owned businesses in the state,” the release states.
The new association has 15 members from around Vermont.
Capitol Beat is compiled by the staffs of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.