STATE TO MAIN

February 10, 2023

Good Afternoon - As bills take shape on legislative priorities, the growing number of tax proposals in discussion is striking. The Vermont Chamber is urging legislators to consider the cumulative impact of proposals when crafting individual legislation and to communicate across committees to ensure priorities are balanced with economic conditions.

 

The economy was the top issue for voters this past election, and inflation, supply chain issues, and workforce shortage concerns all remain relevant. During a time of great uncertainty, we need to value the economy and consider the true tax capacity of Vermonters.

 

As always, our expert advocacy team is accessible at govaffairs@vtchamber.com.

 

Sincerely,

Megan Sullivan, VP of Government Affairs
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Paid Leave Fast-Tracked With 13 Weeks Leave and 100% Wage Replacement

For the average-sized Vermont Chamber member, one employee on leave would require them to operate without 20% of their total workforce for a quarter of the year. The Vermont Chamber provided testimony this week on the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program, encouraging legislators to consider the current economic realities facing Vermont business owners, and any unintended consequences of vague language included in the bill. The bill is expected to be voted out of committee next week, leaving few days for the committee to evaluate the testimony received in recent weeks and address concerns on eligibility, process, and scope.


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Vermont’s Only Business Incentive Program at Risk

A bill that would effectively end the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive (VEGI) program is under consideration. Vermont Chamber members Caledonia Spirits, Chroma Technologies Lawson's Finest Liquids, and Beta Technologies all testified in continued support of the VEGI program as an economic growth strategy and encouraged legislators to use the approaching sunset as an opportunity to review and modernize the program, rather than eliminate it.


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Economic Recovery Program Championed by Vermont Chamber Reaches Successful Conclusion

The VEDA Short-Term Forgivable Loan Program has been fully subscribed. The business relief program provided a total of $17.6 million of financial assistance to 177 businesses whose operations were harmed by pandemic-related economic impacts. The average award granted by the program was $99,400. The remaining applications in the queue for review will allow VEDA to allocate the full $19 million closing out the program. This economic development program was successfully advocated for by the Vermont Chamber in the 2022 legislative session.


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Immediate Action on Housing Required for Workforce Growth

The demand for housing continues to be met with opposition from community and environmental advocates that want to discourage development and are denying housing opportunities to others. Kevin Chu of the Vermont Futures Project, Evan Langfeldt of O’Brien Brothers and former Vermont Chamber board member, and WeiWei Wang of the Vermont Professionals of Color Network all provided expert testimony on the need for the creation of more housing to ensure more people of all backgrounds can live, and work, in Vermont. While many of the policy areas outlined by the Vermont Chamber are been addressed through proposals in the Omnibus Housing Bill, equity remains central to the Vermont Chamber’s work to help shape this legislation.


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Data Privacy Proposal Could Result in Unintended Consequences on Small Business

A data privacy bill that could cause costly and superfluous lawsuits against businesses is under consideration in the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee. Vermont Chamber advocacy will encourage legislators to thoroughly study and understand this complex issue and consider legislation passed in other states in which data privacy laws balance the protection of consumer privacy with manageable regulation on businesses. 


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Senate Finance Committee Takes Testimony on Employer Taxes

The Senate Finance Committee heard testimony from the Joint Fiscal Office on employer payroll-based taxes and received a preview of proposals for new payroll taxes. The Vermont Chamber will testify next week on the total impact of millions in proposed taxes to ensure that when considering implementing additional taxes, the committee has a thorough understanding of the cumulative impact of these measures on employers and understand the need to value economic stewardship.


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Vermont Chamber Supports Continued Health Care Savings for Small Business 

S.54 will keep the small group and individual markets separate for the duration of the federal premium tax credit expansion through 2025. The Vermont Chamber, a successful leader on this issue, continues to support keeping the small group market separated from the individual market, and while the issue is momentarily addressed, cost-shifting questions beyond the next few years remain to be addressed.


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Bill/Project Updates

  • S.5 Affordable Heat – The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee continued taking testimony from concerned citizens on the Affordable Heat Act. They plan to mark up the bill over the next week to vote it out of committee and present it on the House floor by the end of next week.


  • S.45 SALT – This bill, which would create an elective entity-level income tax on pass-through businesses in Vermont, was introduced in the Senate Finance Committee this week. A proposal that didn’t make it across the finish line last year, this bill would allow pass-through businesses to deduct the full amount of Vermont state and local taxes (SALT) paid from the federal taxable income, saving businesses money while not impacting state revenue.


  • H.55 UI – The Department of Labor testified this week before the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee, cautioning against the bill’s bonding requirement for small nonprofits. For these employers, bonding 2% of payroll would be a significant portion of the budget for the organization and is not comparable to the potential claim for unemployment benefits in the future.


  • H.92 UI – The Department of Labor also weighed in on this bill which would expand eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits, cautioning that individuals would still need a minimum level of earnings during their base period to qualify for benefits. Therefore, some individuals in this expanded eligibility scenario would still be ineligible for benefits.


  • H.153 Tax Incentives – This bill contains several tax savings measures the Vermont Chamber has advocated for, including the military retiree pension tax exemption. This exemption builds upon the partial exemption passed last year and would incentivize more military retirees, many of whom still have twenty-plus years of their career ahead of them, to move to Vermont. The bill was introduced in the House Ways and Means Committee this week. 



  • Liquor Liability – The House Government Operations and Military Affairs Committee took testimony on the issue of insurance coverage being increasingly difficult for some businesses to obtain due to Vermont’s high liability ranking. It remains to be seen which committee will begin to address this issue.
Vermont Chamber News

Vermont Chamber Announces New Hires in Business Development and Events Positions

The Vermont Chamber of Commerce has hired Doug Corman as Business Development Manager and Ellie Schabel as Director of Events and Business Education. Both positions will play a key role in elevating the Vermont Chamber’s work of advancing the Vermont economy.


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Save the Date: Tourism Day at the State House

Travel spending by visitors has a $3 billion economic impact annually. Join the tourism and hospitality industry at the State House on Wednesday, March 22 to raise awareness of the importance of the industry in Vermont to legislators.


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Help Inform Advocacy Efforts – Employer Housing Survey

The Vermont Chamber is collecting stories of businesses that have lost employees or prospective employees because of housing. If you are an employer who has experienced this, please complete this brief survey.


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Help Inform Advocacy Efforts – Impact of the Proposed Childcare Payroll Tax Survey

The Vermont Chamber is collecting information on how the proposed childcare payroll tax would impact businesses and their employees. If you or your business and employees would be impacted, please complete this survey.


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