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Vermont’s Shadow Budget: How The State Forgoes $1 Billion In Taxes Each Year

As the Vermont Legislature works to overcome a $100 million budget gap for fiscal year 2016, one of its largest fiscal liabilities remains outside the reach of the annual budget bill. The state gives up about $1 billion in tax breaks annually through policies that have remained largely unchanged in recent years, even as lawmakers struggle to balance budgets.

Unlike state spending, most of the tax breaks are permanent – unless they’re amended. They’re not voted up or down annually like the budget. But every two years, the state tallies how much money it’s not collecting. Here’s the latest glimpse of who gets to keep it.

DATA: Jobs in Vermont

Amid election-season rhetoric and political spin about jobs, this series of data visualizations documented labor statistics over time and across sectors, with both county-level detail and nationwide context. I conceived and designed the series, wrangled and analyzed the data, and wrote accompanying explanatory stories.

Three Years After Irene, Waterbury Complex Stretches for Higher Ground

On Aug. 28, 2011, Tropical Storm Irene began flooding state employees out of their Waterbury offices and psychiatric patients out of their beds.

Three years later, steel beams three stories tall with cross bars at the top prop up faded brick walls from a courtyard. A mason from Irasburg fills ground-level windows with oversized granite bricks. A Monarch butterfly rests on a swaying stalk of tall grass that sprouted next to an oak tree circled in chain link fence.

Data viz: Part-time work casts shadow over low unemployment rating

Vermont’s official unemployment rate may be approaching pre-recessionary lows, but when part-time and other marginally attached workers are factored in, the rate has been slower to budge.

Visually compare not just the official unemployment rates, but all six measures of unemployment in Vermont and around the country with three interactive graphics.

Analyst, economist weigh potential of IBM sale to Globalfoundries

1348 words / VTDigger.org

If IBM were to sell its computer chip-making unit to California-based Globalfoundries — patents and all, as the company is widely rumored to be considering — would the new owner of Vermont’s largest manufacturing plant even want to keep it?

Probably not, according to Len Jelinek, a semiconductor manufacturing industry analyst for the global information firm IHS.

IBM is Vermont’s largest private employer, with about 4,000 workers, and anxiety about the impact of the plant’s sale and potential closure is palpable.

Despite these feverish efforts to keep IBM in the Green Mountain State, there is little the state can do to prevent a potential closure of the plant. Global trends are driving behind-the-scenes negotiations between powerful industry players.

Job losses of IBM’s magnitude are easier to absorb over time, economist Art Woof acknowledged. Still, he said, the area’s financial engine is diversified and resilient enough that even such a “worst case scenario” would not kill the economy.

Study shows 40 percent of Vermont children are not ready for Kindergarten

A new report on the health of Vermont’s children shows that 40 percent of the state’s children were deemed “not ready” for kindergarten in 2012-13. Almost one-third of third-graders read below grade level — a figure that jumps to 45 percent for children living in poverty.

“Any business leader that does not think this is a huge business issue, candidly, they just haven’t done their homework,” Green Mountain Power president and CEO Mary Powell said.