Monday February 11, 2013

Vermont tax forms available online

MONTPELIER (AP) -- Vermonters can now get their state tax forms online.

Officials say the personal income tax return booklet, instructions, tax tables and other helpful information may be downloaded and printed from the "forms" section of the Vermont Department of Taxes website.

Taxpayers also can file state tax returns electronically through Vermont e-file.

The Vermont Department of Taxes says printed tax forms will be distributed later than usual this year, in early February, because of a delay in the federal tax forms caused by the fiscal cliff legislation.

The printed forms will be available at many town clerk offices, libraries and post offices.

Vt. board sets tentative inflation for hospitals

MONTEPLIER (AP) -- A state panel has tentatively set a target inflation rate of 4 percent for Vermont’s 14 hospitals for the coming fiscal year.

The target would add about $85 million to the current statewide spending level of $2.1 billion.

The Green Mountain Care Board will continue to take comments from the hospitals and the public until Feb. 19 and is expected to make a final decision on the targets at a Feb. 21 meeting.

The framework is likely to be more complicated than earlier proposals.

The first proposal was for a 3.1 percent increase, with essentially no exemptions, which the hospitals opposed.

The hospitals have argued that the board should move toward payment reform and system reorganization before cracking down hard on costs.

Bea Grouse, president of the Vermont hospital group, had said in written comments that the board was taking an axe to the budgets, which could have made it impossible for the hospitals to "carry out their missions."

The revised formula is a modest step to accommodate some of the hospitals’ objections.

Vt. lawmakers to hear from public on budget

MONTPELIER (AP) -- Budget writers in both the Vermont House and Senate are inviting the public to a hearing on spending priorities for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have set a public hearing for 4 to 7 p.m. Monday at Vermont Interactive Television locations around the state.

Several sections of Gov. Peter Shumlin’s proposed budget already have generated debate among lawmakers and advocates for low-income Vermonters.

Among them are new limits for how long people can participate in the Reach-up welfare-to-work program, and a plan to take money from the earned income tax credit for low-income working people and put it into child care subsidies.

Hassan to unveil her spending plan for N.H.

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan is unveiling her spending plan for New Hampshire for the next two years on Valentine’s Day.

It is Hassan’s first budget and many whose programs were cut over the past two years are hoping she will restore spending to what it was before the current Republican-passed budget. Hassan has emphasized the need to restore state aid to higher education. But she also has been clear that spending cannot return to prior levels overnight.

The focus Thursday not only will be on which programs she gives a boost to, but also how much she estimates the state will collect in revenues to pay for them. The House next works on the budget that takes effect July 1.

N.H. bills change fuel contract protections

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire’s House and Senate are considering identical bills to expand protections for consumers who enter into pre-paid fuel agreements for home heating oil, kerosene or liquefied petroleum.

The bills would give dealers the option of maintaining an escrow account holding 75 percent of the total prepaid deposits, a letter of credit representing the same percentage, or a bond in the same amount.

The Senate Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee holds a hearing on the proposal on Tuesday. The House Commerce Committee holds a hearing on an identical proposal on Thursday.

Current law gives dealers the choice of buying a futures contract, a bond or obtaining a letter of credit.

Shortage of N.H. hospital beds for mental health

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Mental health advocates say the number of people suffering through a mental health crisis who can’t get a state hospital bed reached a new high, especially among children.

Advocates say 44 people, including 18 children, have been lingering in emergency rooms while waiting for a state hospital bed. Louis Josephson, chief operation officer at Riverbend Community Mental Health, said one of them is a 9-year-old boy who’d been in Concord Hospital’s emergency room for five days.

Mental health advocates have been told that there will be no state hospital bed openings until later this week.

Gov. Maggie Hassan has been monitoring the situation. Her spokesman declined to reveal what mental health initiatives Hassan will put in her budget, to be released Thursday.