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Vermont News Updates For Thursday, August 13

A sign on a white building saying peach shortcake supper with an added sign reading takeout only
Howard Weiss-Tisman
/
VPR
The annual Dummerston Peach Shortcake Supper will go on as planned this year, but it will be takeout only due to the pandemic.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of ongoing local coverage of the coronavirus, approval to complete the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail and more for Thursday, August 13.

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The latest coronavirus data:

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Six new cases of COVID-19

The Vermont Department of Health reported six new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, and another 817 people tested negative for the disease.

Three of the new cases are in Chittenden County, and there is one each in Rutland, Bennington, and Orange Counties.

To date, 105,907 people have been tested for the coronavirus. Two people are currently in the hospital, 1,310 people are reported to have recovered and 58 people have died.

- Anna Van Dine and Elodie Reed

Lamoille Valley Rail Trail approved for completion

After years of delay, the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail is approved for completion in the next two years. 

In a written statement issued Wednesday, Gov. Phil Scott announced the Legislature has approved $2.8 million in funding, which will be matched by $11.3 million in federal funds, to accelerate the completion of the trail. 

The project has been in the works for over a decade. 

The Lamoille Valley Rail Trail extends across five counties in northern Vermont. When completed, it will stretch 93 miles from St. Johnsbury to Swanton.

- Karen Anderson

Budget revenue shortfalls look less drastic than before

Lawmakers will start work on the remainder of the 2021 budget with a much rosier fiscal outlook than had been anticipated.

Jeffrey Carr, the state's economist, says Vermont still faces a revenue shortfall, but that the situation is much better than was predicted earlier this summer.

Carr spoke to the governor and key legislative leaders Wednesday. Carr and the Legislature's economist forecast a $170 million reduction in general fund revenues for this fiscal year and a $100 million reduction next year.

“Those are a lot better than what we were thinking about as recently as the beginning of June, when we had $218-$219 million down in general fund for ‘21, and $125 [million] for ’22,” Carr said.

The Scott administration will soon unveil its budget for the remaining three-quarters of the fiscal year. Lawmakers return in late August to work on the spending plan.

- John Dillon

Molly Gray addresses controversial voting record

The Democratic Party’s nominee for lieutenant governor addressed her controversial voting record at a press conference Thursday.

Molly Gray has come under scrutiny for her lack of participation in the voting process over the last decade.

“And between 2010 and 2016, I did not vote,” Gray said. “People have asked me, ‘What excuse do I have?’ And there is none.”

Gray says her failure to vote in the 2016 presidential election, when Donald Trump was on the ballot, was a wake-up call.

Gray, 36, says her campaign for lieutenant governor will put a strong focus on encouraging younger Vermonters to vote.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Sugarbush gets new chief operations officer

Sugarbush Resort announced a new President and chief operations officer Thursday.

Win Smith is retiring from the position and handing over leadership to John Hammond, a longtime Sugarbush employee.

Smith owned the resort from 2001 until this past January, when Sugarbush was purchased by Colorado-based Alterra Mountain Company.

- Anna Van Dine

Democrats rally for unity before November election

Nearly all the statewide candidates that competed in the Democratic primary gathered in Montpelier Thursday to call for party unity heading into the general election.

Unsuccessful candidates like Debbie Ingram, who lost her bid for the lieutenant governor nomination to Molly Gray, said Democrats must now turn their attention to defeating Republicans in November.

“The people, other Democrats, have spoken clearly in the lieutenant governor’s race,” Ingram said. “I congratulate Molly Gray on winning the confidence of the majority of the members of our party, and wish her the best in the general election.”

More from VPR: Vermont Primary Election 2020: Statewide Results

Gubernatorial candidate David Zuckerman will be at the top of the statewide ticket for Democrats this year, and his formal rivals – gubernatorial candidates Rebecca Holcombe and Pat Winburn – urged voters to coalesce behind him.

“We were running a race, a relay race, and now we’re handing the baton to David,” Holcombe said. “We need to get behind him a make the change that we need to make to make sure that we all vote blue, from top down to dog catcher this time around.”

Zuckerman, who defeated his nearest competitor by nearly 10 points in Tuesday’s primary, faces Republican incumbent Phil Scott in the general election.

Democratic Congressman Peter Welch is also up for reelection.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Gov. expresses frustration over federal COVID-19 funds deadlock

Gov. Phil Scott says he shares lawmakers' frustration that Congress and the White House are deadlocked on a new COVID-19 stimulus package that would direct aid to the states.

Scott chairs the Emergency Board, a special panel made up of key lawmakers and the governor that decides state fiscal issues when the Legislature is not in session.

The board met Wednesday, and Scott was asked what he hears from other governors about help from Washington. Scott says states want flexibility to spend the current round of federal stimulus funds after Dec. 31, which is the deadline for using the money.

“Regardless of whether there's more money, which we'd like, but just more flexibility so that we can go beyond the 12/31 deadline – that would free up a lot of opportunity for us,” he said. “We're all on board, and everyone is telling us this isn't too much of an ask, and then it doesn't get done.”

The Legislature goes back in session in late August to finish work on the budget.

- John Dillon

Scott Milne says as lieutenant governor, he'd develop Vermont economy

The new Republican nominee for lieutenant governor says his experience as a small business owner will be vital as Vermont’s economy recovers from the pandemic.

Scott Milne won the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor on Tuesday night. He’s currently the president of Milne Travel — a company started by his mother in the 1970s.

Milne says if he wins in November, he wants to help develop the state’s economy.

“I’m focused on using the lieutenant governor’s office to essentially be chief marketing officer, chief brand officer, business ombudsmen for the state of Vermont,” Milne said.

He’ll face Democratic nominee Molly Gray in the general election. Milne also previously ran unsuccessful bids for governor and U.S. Senate.

For more primary election coverage, including Molly Gray's response to winning her primary, head to VPR's 2020 Primary Election liveblog.

- Liam Elder-Connors

Cris Ericson says she'll run as Independent in November

Perennial candidate Cris Ericson appears to have won several races on the Progressive primary ballot, but she says she won't be associated with the party in November.

Unofficial results from the Secretary of State indicate Ericson won the Progressive nomination for lieutenant governor, state auditor, attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state.

She’s currently leading in the governor's race on the Progressive ticket, though it appears there are still write-in votes to be counted.

But in a text message to VPR, Ericson says she'll run as an Independent in November because she doesn't like the way she's been treated by the Progressive Party.

The Progressive Party did not support any of Ericson's bids — and it encouraged its members to write-in Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman for governor. Zuckerman won the Democratic gubernatorial primary Tuesday.

- Liam Elder-Connors

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