The legislature closed on Saturday night, May 16. The following action was taken during this session:
• A $30 M Tax package passed and includes $7.9 million in income tax changes, namely a cap on itemized deductions and a 3 percent alternative minimum tax on income-earners who make $150,000 or more. The cap on deductions will be 2.5 times the standard deduction, or about $30,000. The legislation exempts charitable deductions and medical expenses.
• Soda will now be taxed ($5.1 million for the General Fund and $2.8 million for the Education Fund).
• Vending machines will be assessed the 9 percent meals tax ($1 million)
• $53 million worth of cuts in state spending but a budget cap remains.
• Same day voter registration.
• Philosophical exemption for vaccines is removed. Religious and medical exemptions are still allowed.
• Gun ownership is restricted. Under the new law, which will go into effect July 1, people with certain criminal convictions will be prohibited from possessing a gun. The law also calls for state courts to report findings of mental illness to a federal registry. Those deemed unfit for gun ownership and added to the registry would have their rights restored once recovered from mental illness.
• Education reform that will institute penalties for school budget increases that exceed new caps, and it will create strong tax incentives for smaller districts to merge with their neighbors.
• New Child Protection law-Policy has now shifted from reunifying children with birth parents and must consider child safety first; clarifies policies for mandatory child abuse and neglect reporters, changes confidentiality restrictions to allow better communication
• New energy standard that requires utilities to buy and sell more renewable electricity beginning in 2017. It also encourages utilities to reduce customers’ fossil fuel consumption through the use of heat pumps and electric cars.
For more information, check the Vermont General Assembly website.