MONTPELIER- Gov. Jim Douglas’ proposed alternative general fund budget has won the support of tourism officials in the state.
Officials in the tourism and hospitality industry said they were pleased that the alternative budget approach proposed by Gov. Douglas contains an additional $850,000 to market the state. Mount Snow General Manager Kelly Pawlak said the Deerfield Valley economy relies on tourism, and the additional state marketing money in the governor’s budget was good news, and would show a quick return. Vermont, she said, fits the bill for vacationers who are looking for affordable vacations within driving distance from home.
Tourism and marketing commissioner Bruce Hyde said the money is an investment in job creation and retention. A recent economic impact study showed that visitor spending in Vermont supported approximately 37,000 jobs, and contributed $206.9 million in tax and fee revenues to state coffers in the general, education and transportation funds.
Obama signs Leahy anti-fraud bill
WASHINGTON- An anti-fraud bill authored by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy was signed into law by President Barack Obama this week.
The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act increases penalties for fraud and increases resources available to federal prosecutors to combat fraud. Reports of mortgage and corporate fraud are said to be at an all-time high, and law enforcement agencies are expecting a significant increase in fraud in connection with the economic recovery efforts. The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act will rebuild the nation’s capacity to investigate and prosecute mortgage and corporate fraud.
This week President Obama also signed into law the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, which provides additional tools to borrowers and banks to help prevent foreclosures. The law includes a Leahy-authored provision to make important changes to the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which provides assistance to states for the rehabilitation of abandoned and foreclosed properties. The provision will allow Vermont and other small states to use their allocation of funds to address concerns on a statewide basis. The Department of Housing and Urban Development had previously placed restrictions on how Vermont could expend funds. The restrictions excluded Chittenden County and other population centers throughout the state.
Governor lukewarm on renewable energy bill
MONTPELIER- Gov. Jim Douglas has allowed H.446, a renewable energy bill, pass into law without his signature. The governor said that, although he supports the development of renewable energy in Vermont, he believes the legislation sets minimum rates for renewable energy resources, and doesn’t recognize the viability of renewables.
The new law includes a requirement that the Agency of Natural Resources reconsider its policy prohibiting wind turbine development on state-owned land. The law will also encourage improvements in residential and commercial building standards, allows towns and incorporated villages to create “clean energy assessment districts” that would allow them to use municipal bonds to finance residential renewable energy projects, and sets restrictions on the power of municipalities to restrict the use of renewable and energy efficient devices such as solar panels, wind turbines, and clotheslines.
Leahy and Sanders support cardholder rights bill
WASHINGTON- The Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights is on its way to President Barack Obama’s desk, Vermont Representative Peter Welch announced this week.
The bill protects consumers from arbitrary interest rate increases, double-cycle billing, and due-date “gimmicks.” It also allows cardholders to set limits on their credit and requires card companies to fairly allocate payments. Credit card companies would be required to give a 45-day notice of any fee or interest rate changes; are prohibited from charging interest on fees; and protects younger credit card consumers from alluring and usurious credit card offers. The bill also passed in the Senate with the support of senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders.