Why the Tax Man Cometh

September 7, 2017

Earlier this week, VTDigger reported that Vermont's tax department was sending about 20,000 letters to Vermonters notifying them that they may owe use tax, an often-ignored tax on some out-of-state or online purchases.

Kaj Samsom, Vermont's tax commissioner, said that fewer than a quarter of residents pay the use tax they legally owe the state. That's why his department is setting out to "change the culture" around the tax.

Readers quickly responded with a range of questions: When is this tax supposed to apply? How did the department choose who would receive these notices? What personal data are vendors obligated to share with the state under new tax law? In this week's podcast, Kaj Samsom responds.

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Teflon Town

August 31, 2017

This week, VTDigger and the Bennington Banner published a five part series called Teflon Town, examining the toxic legacy of a North Bennington manufacturer that state officials have blamed for contaminating the surrounding area with dangerous levels of the chemical PFOA.

Two of VTDigger's reporters have been working on this story for over a year. On this week's podcast, they talk about how they put it together.

First, reporter Jim Therrien, whose work appears in both VTDigger and the Banner, discusses using the newspaper's archives to research the history of the once-popular ChemFab company. Then, VTDigger's environmental reporter Mike Polhamus delves into the cache of public records that revealed a lack of state regulatory oversight throughout the decades ChemFab was polluting. Plus, North Bennington residents describe how living with PFOA has affected their lives, families, and properties.

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The Week in EB-5

August 24, 2017

Since 2014, VTDigger has investigated allegations of fraud at Jay Peak Resort and related developments in the Northeast Kingdom. This week, we reported on two new steps towards the resolution of this case.

On Monday, Governor Phil Scott announced that US Citizenship and Immigration Services intended to shut down Vermont’s EB-5 regional center, which was charged with overseeing the developments. On Tuesday, we found out that Ariel Quiros had agreed to drop his challenge to the fraud allegations and negotiate a partial settlement with the SEC.

On this week's podcast, VTDigger’s Anne Galloway joins Mike Smith on WDEV Radio’s Open Mike to talk about the regional center's closure, Quiros' settlement, and another recent interview that goes behind the scenes of her years-long investigation.

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The Rescission Makers

August 17, 2017

For the past several fiscal years, Vermont has seen a series of revenue downgrades: Economists project a shortfall, and the governor proposes mid-year budget cuts to make up for it. For the current fiscal year, lawmakers approved $12.6 million in rescissions to counter a $28.8 million revenue downgrade projected in July.

On this week's podcast, reporter Elizabeth Hewitt talks about how the Scott administration identified ways to resolve this year's budget gap. Plus, editor Anne Galloway discusses why these continuing budget gaps point to broader structural issues in the state's economy.

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The Care Board’s Balancing Act

August 10, 2017

The Green Mountain Care Board made two decisions this week that, taken together, affect health insurance premiums for every customer on Vermont Health Connect. On Wednesday, the board declared that MVP Health Care could raise premiums by an average of 3.5 percent, and on Thursday, they capped Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont’s increases at 9.2 percent.

Regulators set both rates lower than insurers had requested, but many consumers, advocates, and even members of the Green Mountain Care Board have said that these rates don't go far enough towards making health insurance more affordable for Vermonters. VTDigger’s health care reporter Erin Mansfield explains.

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Returning to Coventry

August 3, 2017

Cynthia Diaz, the now-former clerk and treasurer in Coventry, admitted in civil court this week to destroying a thumb drive containing records of the town’s finances. Diaz still has not faced criminal charges over town officials' suspicions that she embezzled roughly $1.4 million in public funds.

Reporter Dan Schwartz posted his last dispatch from the Northeast Kingdom town this week. In it, he describes how the Selectboard's Scott Morley fought to get control of town functions out of Diaz's hands. Still, Morley and others wonder why numerous investigators have not been able to build a case against her. On this week's podcast, Dan tells us what he's learned since we last spoke about the town.

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Repeal Debate Redux

July 27, 2017

Since returning from the July 4th recess, Senate Republicans have continued to push for a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Last week, faltering support for their repeal-and-replace measure, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, left observers wondering if the bill was doomed.

A dramatic vote to proceed on debating the proposal earlier this week has touched off days of tension in Washington. On this week's podcast, VTDigger's Elizabeth Hewitt calls from a Capitol Hill phone booth to tell us how the Senate discussion has evolved.

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Inside the McAllister Trial

July 20, 2017

Norm McAllister, a former state senator from Franklin County, has continually maintained that his relationships with three women who accused him of sexual assault and prostitution were consensual. But over the past two years, those accusers — and state prosecutors — have told a different story.

McAllister’s weeklong trial on one accuser’s charges came to a conclusion Friday night with a mixed verdict that left neither side satisfied. VTDigger’s Morgan True and Seven Days’ Mark Davis were both in the room. In this week’s podcast, they take us behind the scenes at the courthouse in St. Albans where jurors decided on McAllister’s case.

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The Trump Budget Threat

July 13, 2017

While new information regarding Russian government involvement in President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign dominated national news this week, VTDigger’s Washington, D.C. reporting has focused on a different story from the Trump White House.

Multiple budget proposals released by the Trump administration this spring have provided a revealing look into the president’s funding priorities. If Congress approves a budget that looks anything like these blueprints, federally funded programs in Vermont could see major cuts.

On this week's podcast, Jasper Craven, who reported from Washington, D.C. for the first six months of this year, explains the key provisions.

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Obamacare Repeal and Vermont

July 6, 2017

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate would delay its vote on legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Next week, legislators return to Washington to resume discussion of a health care proposal that could have a major impact on Vermont.

VTDigger health care reporter Erin Mansfield explains how the ACA has impacted the state and what health care in Vermont might look like if the law is repealed.

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