May 16, 2003 – News at a glance

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VA health care system
A national crisis in health care for U.S. veterans has been felt at the Veterans Affairs Center in White River Junction. Many veterans of past wars are applying for the first time, and some are facing long waits and stiffer standards for eligibility. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

FAHC lays off 50 employees
Vermont’s largest hospital will cut 50 jobs and trim physician salaries in order to reverse an eight million dollar operating loss. The sweeping cost-cuts at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington were announced on Thursday by interim President Edwin Colodny. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

Consolidated permit appeals
Governor Jim Douglas says it’s essential that any permit reform bill adopted by the Legislature this year include a consolidation of the appeals process. Douglas says it will be hard for him to support any bill that does not contain this provision. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

Legislators’ pay raise
Governor Jim Douglas says he thinks it’s appropriate for lawmakers to tie their salaries to the cost of living. But the governor says a decision by the House to boost their pay by 24% goes too far. (VPR)

Consolidated utility service areas
The head of the state’s second largest electric utility said on Thursday that power companies could be more efficient if they consolidated some of their service areas. (VPR)

Dean expands Iowa campaign staff
Presidential candidate Howard Dean is expanding his Iowa campaign staff. The former Vermont governor is adding key communications and organizational staffers. (AP)

Bennington Bypass speed limit
State officials are rethinking how fast they want motorists to drive on the new Bennington Bypass. (AP)

Colodny accepts pay cut
Fletcher Allen’s interim CEO, Edwin Colodny, is going to scale back his own pay as part of cuts at Vermont’s largest hospital. Colodny announced Thursday that 50 employees, including some nurses, are losing their jobs immediately. Another 78 unfilled positions have been eliminated. The cuts are part of a plan to save four million dollars for the financially troubled hospital. (AP)

Unemployment rate
Vermont’s unemployment rate is up for the second month in a row. The state Department of Employment and Training announced Thursday the unemployment rate for April was 4.3%. In March the unemployment rate was 4.1%. (AP)

U.S. Senate tax cut vote
Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords says a tax cut plan passed by the Senate Thursday ignores the Americans who need tax relief the most. Jeffords and Senator Patrick Leahy voted against a provision suspending taxes on stock dividends for three years. (AP)

Act 60 negotiations
House and Senate negotiators held their first talks Thursday on changes to Act 60, Vermont’s education funding law. Both sides want to increase the amount the state sends to schools to $7,000 per student, and they want to simplify the taxing mechanism on residential property. But the two sides still don’t agree on how to lower property taxes. (AP)

Lawmakers’ pay raise
A pay raise for lawmakers is in trouble in the Vermont Senate. The Vermont House endorsed a plan this week that would raise lawmakers’ pay by $130 a week starting two years from now. Pay would go up to $666 a week, a 24% increase. But members of the key Government Operations Committee say they’re not likely to vote for the pay raise this year. (AP)

Senate backs Public Service nominee
Vermont Governor Jim Douglas’ nominee to head the Department of Public Service has won the backing of a Senate committee. David O’Brien won the unanimous recommendation of a Senate committee Thursday for confirmation. (AP)

Utility rates
Vermont’s two largest electric utilities enjoyed stellar earnings in 2002, and both promise more cost cutting in the next year. Central Vermont Public Service says it will continue to freeze electric rates for another four years. Green Mountain Power Corporation says it probably won’t need to raise rates next year. (AP)

Dean’s charged of “elitism”
Some Vermonters are defending former Governor Howard Dean after criticism from a national centrist Democrat organization. Vermont’s two U.S. senators issued statements in response to the Democratic Leadership Council memo that suggested Dean was a liberal elitist. (AP)

Dean’s net worth
The financial net worth of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean’s family is on the rise. Dean and his wife’s net worth is nearly $4.24 million. That’s according to a statement filed Thursday in connection with his presidential campaign. (AP)

Students return from Africa
Some Vermont college students are headed back to the United States after their humanitarian mission was canceled because of terrorism concerns. The 10 students from Saint Michael’s College in Colchester were expected to head back from Kenya on Friday. (AP)

UVM’s incoming class
Officials at the University of Vermont say the incoming class of students is bigger and better than last year’s. Administrators say class size is likely to be up 3%. And the students’ SAT scores and class rankings are higher than those of last year’s new freshmen. (AP)

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