Good government is essential to achieving Governor Scott’s strategic priorities to grow the economy, make Vermont more affordable and protect the vulnerable. The Governor is committed to nurturing and institutionalizing a culture of continuous improvement so employees can lead reforms to improve processes and systems, resulting in more efficient, effective, equitable, and accessible services in all areas of state government. Governor Scott also believes good government means always doing what is best for Vermont and Vermonters, even when those decisions are difficult or unpopular, and being transparent and accountable to the people.
Holding the Line on New Taxes & Fees and Slowing State Budget Growth
- Governor Scott has held the line on adding new, or increasing existing, taxes throughout his tenure.
- The FY18 State budget did not raise or add taxes or fees and held statewide property tax rates level for residential and non-residential rate payers.
- The FY19 State budget did not raise or add taxes or fees and held statewide property tax rates level for residential rate payers for a second consecutive year.
- In 2018, the Governor worked to implement a new approach to managing the State’s Education Fund, which – with the support and hard work of school boards across the state – helped Vermonters avoid about $71 million in forecasted property tax rate increases. Of those total savings, $29 million were a direct result of the Governor’s budget vetoes.
Strategic Planning and Budgeting
- Developed a State Strategic Plan, setting specific, measurable goals to improve the lives of Vermonters and aligning state policy development to this plan.
- The Administration uses the state strategic plan to prioritize policy and investments that will make the biggest impact for Vermonters, moving the state closer to results-based budgeting and accountability.
Funding Liabilities and Paying Down Debt
Managing state debt and addressing longstanding liabilities is key to good fiscal management that puts the state on better footing. The Scott Administration’s work, alongside the Treasurers office, legislators and other key partners, includes:
- All budgets passed under the Scott administration (FY18-FY23) have met or surpassed the required investments in our state employees’ and teachers’ pension and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) obligations.
- The FY19 budget adjustment and the FY20 budget both paid down unfunded liabilities with:
- $22.2 million to retire an internal loan funding retired teachers’ health benefits.
- $3.3 million to make an additional payment to the retired teachers’ pension plan.
- Statutory changes to direct a portion of future General Fund surplus reserves to the state employee’s OPEB trust fund.
- In FY23, the state also:
- Reduced tax-supported general obligation debt service by over $2.1 million through the early retirement of $20 million in callable bonds.
- Retired $19.9 million of Transportation Infrastructure Bond (TIB) debt early, resulting in an overall interest savings of over $3.9 million.
- Established a Capital Expenditure Cash Fund in lieu of bonding for certain eligible capital projects. If utilized per the Administration’s proposal, this fund could result in an over $300 million reduction in the issuance of general obligation debt over the course of 20 years.
PIVOT and LEAN – Improving government service and efficiency
- The Governor's Program to Improve Vermont Outcomes Together (PIVOT) was implemented to improve operations and ensure state government is working more efficiently and effectively. Through PIVOT, state employees are working closely with the state's Chief Performance Officer to identify and eliminate inefficiencies. This program was modeled after Toyota's successful LEAN program, a process designed to increase productivity by empowering employees to systematically reduce waste.
- Continuous improvement allows us to identify and develop new approaches for solving new and persistent challenges to improve our services for the public and meet the needs of Vermonters. Research has shown that a strong culture of continuous improvement delivers many organizational benefits. The Agency of Administration's Chief Performance Office (CPO) has many initiatives underway to encourage more continuous improvement so that state government can provide better services to Vermonters.
- Continuous Improvement Training
- Maintaining a well-trained and well-qualified workforce is a necessity for any organization. The CPO offers trainings and professional development related to structured problem solving, performance measurement, project management, change management, facilitation, data analysis, software usages, supervision, operational management, and strategic planning. These trainings serve to increase the knowledge, skill, and ability of state employees to provide efficient and effective services to Vermonters.
- Continuous improvement training participation has increased significantly since the training program began in FY 2013. Governor Scott has put an emphasis on this training, resulting in more state employees participating. Nearly 4,000 state employees have been trained in continuous improvement practices since 2018, which is 4.5-times the number in the four years prior.
Reorganizing State Government for Better Results
- Agency of Digital Services - Created the Agency of Digital Services to unify all aspects of the state's IT operations under one roof, providing more efficient support for state employees, delivering better customer service, and enhancing accountability.
- ADS streamlined existing processes and in its first year, already identified $2.19 million in statewide savings or cost avoidance. Additionally, ADS has improved procurement processes, increased project successes, enhanced communications, and better utilized statewide resources – all without increasing IT staffing.
- Merging the Department of Liquor and the Lottery Department - In January 2017, the Governor issued an Executive Order creating the Department of Liquor and Lottery, a merger that was enacted via Act 1 of 2018 Special Session. The new unified department aligns programmatic services, eliminated redundancies and leverages shared assets for strategic planning and growth to deliver better outcomes and service, and achieve cost savings and efficiencies for taxpayers.
- Modernizing State boards, commissions,, studies and reports - Conducted a review of existing Executive Branch boards and commissions to identify opportunities to improve efficiency. Proposed and passed legislation to streamline reporting requirements, eliminate unnecessary reports, merge or phase out redundant boards and commissions; and create a committee to review the future status of boards and commissions. Passed Act 61 of 2019, which eliminates and modernizes several state boards and commissions to operate state government more efficiently.
Historic Investments to Modernize State Systems for Better Service and Security
In 2020 and 2021 Vermont received unprecedented Federal aid alongside an historic surplus of in the State budget. To advance priority modernization projects, Governor Scott proposed $66 million in his FY22 budget for IT modernization projects and much-needed upgrades across State government. This included:
- $24.5 million to the Department of Motor Vehicles to complete the first phase of the DMV IT system replacement of the 40-year-old mainframe applications.
- $9.5 to the Agency of Human Services for Integrated Eligibility – a program to replace the dated Access system.
- $4.5 million to the Vermont Department of Labor for phase one of the Unemployment Insurance (UI) modernization system to improve service for UI beneficiaries.
- $4.5 million to the Department for Children and Families to replace the Bright Futures Information System.
- $4 million to the Agency of Education for data systems related to licensing management, dual enrollment vouchers, and adult education and literacy programs.
- $1.7 million to the State's Attorneys and Sheriffs to upgrade its case management system software.
- $1.5 million to the Agency of Digital Services cybersecurity work – a core infrastructure replacement and router replacements for public safety connections to the municipalities.
- $1.1 million to the Department of Environmental Conservation for the second phase of the permit navigator, a citizen-facing permit portal.
- $1 million to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development to transition ACCD to a centralized grants system.
- $500,000 to the Natural Resources Board for the Act 250 scanning project to digitize land-use records.
- $250,000 to the Secretary of State for completion of the Vermont Business Portal to provide digital access for Vermont-based businesses to at least four state agencies.
- $140,000 to the Office of the Defender General to complete a case management system upgrade.
- $12.8 million to the Agency of Administration for a Human Capital Management ERP upgrade, a replacement of the HR system that tracks employee information, timesheets, and contracts, including a VANTAGE budget system upgrade and interface with the new HR system.
Strengthening the State's Cybersecurity
- Created, by Executive Order, the Cybersecurity Advisory Team to enhance the state’s preparedness and protection against cyber threats.
- Proposed and passed the creation of the Vermont Security Operations Center (SOC), which will be developed and coordinated by the Agency of Digital Services to mitigate cybersecurity risks. This is executed through a public-private partnership with Norwich University, helping educate students, provide hands-on job experience with real threats and cutting-edge technology products and create job opportunities in Vermont.
- Created the position of Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) to lead the Security Division within the Agency of Digital Services.
- To combat growing cybersecurity threats, the FY19 budget adjustment and FY20 budget include the Governor’s proposal of $2.3 million to strengthen the state’s firewall and upgrade critical IT infrastructure.
As part of a commitment to restore faith and trust in government, the Governor has worked to instill a culture of transparency and access across Vermont’s Executive Branch.
Access to Records and Transparency
- Developed a disclosure plan to expedite the disclosure of documents related to the State’s oversight of the EB-5 program in the Northeast Kingdom linked to fraud by Ariel Quiros. As a result the Department of Financial Regulation released more than 800,000 pages of previously undisclosed documents. The Governor continues to advocate for the remaining documents to be released by the Attorney General’s Office.
- Issued a directive to all state agencies to ensure compliance with a Court decision to ensure agencies and departments do not charge for records if they are inspected (therefore do not require copies or digital files).
- Governor Scott and his office, through the legal and communications team, have consistently worked to ensure records are released in accordance with state records law, in a timely manner and with a judicious approach to applying exemptions to ensure records are not withheld unnecessarily.
Access to Government
- Press Conferences – Governor Scott committed to, and has followed through, with participating in a weekly press conference, including open Q&A with members of the press each week as a way to ensure accountability and that he’s answering to his decisions and actions.
- Throughout the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Scott expanded upon this commitment to transparency, access and accountability, hosting three press conferences per week from March 2020-June 2020, then hosting two per week from June 2020-June 2021 before returning to the regular weekly schedule. These briefings were broadcast live on Vermont television stations, and the Governor and his team disclosed weekly data and took questions from every member of the press, often lasting more than 2 hours.
- Capital for a Day – Governor Scott launched the Capital for a Day initiative in 2018 and again in 2019, visiting all 14 counties for a day each with his entire cabinet and other members of his Administration. This initiative gives Vermonters across the entire state unprecedented access to the leadership team of the Executive Branch, as well as key program staff to help navigate difficult issues and make sure state government sees and hears the challenges and opportunities directly from the field.
- Constituent Services – Governor Scott has put an emphasis on constituent services in his office, setting a high standard for responsiveness to provide prompt, informed responses and good service.
- Strengthening the Executive Code of Ethics - In his first year in office, Governor Scott issued an Executive Order to strengthen the Executive Code of Ethics, which applies to Executive Branch employees appointed by the governor. Historically, the Code of Ethics has reflected a Governor’s interest in ensuring fairness and impartiality in the conduct of State business. Governor Scott took steps in his Code to raise the bar for his team, including calling on appointees to:
- Act as examples and set a civil and respectful tone;
- Manage electronic communications to facilitate compliance with State law regarding public access to records;
- Be in good standing with respect to payment of all tax obligations, now including municipal and state taxes;
- Ensure sexual harassment in the workplace does not occur or persist; and
- Attend training on issues relating to sexual harassment and governmental ethics at least annually.
- Strengthening State Training Requirements – Under the Scott Administration, all executive branch employees are now required to participate in sexual harassment training classes through the Vermont Department of Human Resources.