Innkeepers are a busy bunch. To save you time, VLA attends Governor Scott’s Covid-19 press conferences and takes notes for you. Below is the summary from 4/19/22.
Governor Scott has shared his concerns with the House-passed budget bill. He says the Senate version is better and closer to what he proposed but there are still major differences. He appreciates the funding on many shared priorities that seem to be focused on government systems and reduces or eliminates funding in a broad range of areas. It does not make the most of this unprecedented opportunity to make long-term investments with this one-time money.
“Pensions need true structural reform,” said Scott. He had asked legislature to take the lead and work with his team, which they did, but administration was involved with writing of the bill. He believes the task force work should be a starting point not a rubber stamp and that his recommendations were “not included or seriously considered.” The bill does not go far enough; it is a band-aid without fixing the problem. He says the easiest thing politically would be to sign the bill, but this bill does not solve problem and necessary fixes will be much harder in the future. He introduced David Coates, a Democrat who has been looking at this problem for over 15 years and is considered an expert on this subject, to offer his recommendations to shore up the system.
- S.286 is a good start but does not go far enough to fix pension system
- It is a short-term fix with no structural changes in it
- He shared highlights of his testimony to Government Operations last Friday
- as background: $5.8B unfunded pension liabilities which created a $300M deficit on state’s balance sheet 6/30/21; funded ratio is only 59%; very underfunded
- S.286 – $2B deduction from unfunded liabilities only puts $300M against pensions (toward $3B deficit)
- retiree health care benefits with $1.7B funding is only an accounting change, no structural change; benefits to retirees does not change
- offers mild reform on pension side, but not enough
- need more frequent review of inflation and assumptions; a slight change can cause a big monetary shift
- S.286 does not prepare Vermont
- * * drop in video/audio
- should adopt risk-sharing policy
- frequent reviews of plan assumptions and stress testing which act as an early warning system
- Testimony on S.286 (link to full transcript of testimony)
- “When you are forewarned, you are forearmed. When you know what is coming you can be prepared for it, and with S.286 we are not going to be prepared.”
- BA-2 watching and monitoring; increase in case numbers and hospitalizations, but less than at peak of Omicron
- most cases not experiencing severe effects, referred to decoupling of disease and serious outcomes
- VT top 3 states in regard to testing; still offering take-home PCR and rapid testing at all sites
- overall risk is different from personal risk; continue to support and respect choices of others
- our current guidance agrees with CDC to continue to wear masks in public transportation settings
- if over 65 or with underlying conditions and you test positive, call your doctor; treatments are available when taken early; if without regular doctor, call 211 to connect with provider
- stay home if you feel sick; flu, respiratory, and intestinal viruses are also circulating right now
- stressed importance of getting tested in not feeling well, healthvt.gov/testing
- be vaccinated and up to date; test at home for any symptoms; access therapies within first 5 days of illness
- Have you done analysis of how much 401k option would cut unfunded liability?
- Scott: not done analysis
- If legislature does not include this option, will you veto?
- Scott: it would be easiest to accept as best you can do but “I can’t seem to let this go;” still contemplating; we should all listen to an expert like Dave Coates
- Can you be clear about what you are asking the legislature to do?
- Scott: first and foremost, there should be a choice, and risk sharing; David would go much further than these two initiatives
- Is defined contribution a less generous option for state employees?
- Scott: it is a pay-as-you-go system
- Coates: employers in private sector are doing pretty well; there are plans based on employee age
- Projected savings to system if offered choice?
- Coates: if state had switched to a defined contribution plan in 2010, 20-25% of workforce would be enrolled and state wouldn’t be faced with $5.8B in liabilities
- Update on medical monitoring bill headed to your desk?
- Scott: still not seen the bill but expect to sign it if no technical problems with the bill
- Takeaway from school facility inventory in terms of state of school buildings around Vermont?
- Sec. French: facilities inventory is beginning of larger policy (Act 72) passed last year––collecting designed to give foundational information about conditions; next step a more detailed assessment; to contract out to do so in near future; important to look at equality and equity and take systematic approach in funding facilities statewide
- Is more money the solution?
- Sec. French: we have choices in front of us; state values education and facilities are a part of that and will ultimately lead us to make policy decisions around which facilities to invest in more than others
- H.715––what are your concerns about the bill and are you prepared to veto if not met?
- Scott: concern is legislature advocating its authority to the PUC; PUC can take the first step and bring it back to legislature; I should be able to weigh in
- On breakthrough case rate, are you specifically watching the rate of vaccinated people coming to the hospital?
- Scott: reporting data varies state to state and can skew analysis
- Levine: people are getting this more transmissible virus and at a greater rate; pool of unvaccinated is smaller than other states and affects percentages; the more we focus on case numbers the less relevant they become; hospital numbers are much more relevant and that shows hospitals are not being overrun and are in a good state
- Department of Health tracks pediatric case rates and shows mild increase, is that they only way it tracks cases?
- Levine: that’s the majority; rate is paralleling overall case rate; every sector of society is looking the same right now
- Any plan to support childcare facilities now that Test-for-Tots has ended?
- Levine: continue to offer guidance and ability to do testing; we are awaiting word on vaccine for children under age 5