Administration officials presenting Vermont’s regular Friday COVID-19 update discussed an increase in cases among younger residents. The governor also responded to a move by the House Speaker to deal with the state’s ailing pension fund.
Data presented by the Department of Financial Regulation shows that Vermont has reached an all-time high in the seven-day case rate average. Commissioner Michael Pieciak said the cases continue to rise with the median age now 27 years. Those in the older age range who have been vaccinated have lower rates of infection.
“Most concerning are the youngest Vermonters, those 20 to 29-years-old, their case rates have increased 50% through the month of March," Pieciak said. "And those also in the 10 to 19-year-old group have seen their case rates increase just over 100%. The age group that stands out most clearly are those 18 to 24-years-old where much of the case growth has happened and certainly much of the cases have occurred over the last month or so. We really need these age groups to do everything that they can to protect themselves, protect their families, get tested frequently and to follow the public health guidance to the greatest degree that they can.”
Vermont officials have been trying to find ways to reduce the growth in the state pension fund’s unfunded liability for several years. A House proposal put forward in mid-March calls for increasing employee contributions and changing retirement eligibility. Before the administration’s COVID briefing started, Vermont House Democratic Speaker Jill Krowinski announced that the controversial proposal has been nixed this session.
“I want to pause and acknowledge how hard and emotional this conversation has been for all those concerned," Krowinski said. "We are talking about the economic security and the future of our dedicated state employees and teachers. I’d like the committee to create a pension task force that brings all stakeholders from the unions to the governor to be at the table to look at possible revenue sources and plan and benefit changes to fix this problem.”
Governor Phil Scott noted he had been quickly briefed on the Speaker’s decision minute earlier and was disappointed the Legislature is not acting to deal with the pension deficit.
“This is a huge problem for our state," Scott said. "It’s a $5.7 billion unfunded liability that has to be dealt with. If we don’t we’re going to be facing insolvency and that’s something that we can’t let happen. While I’m disappointed I’m encouraged to hear they are still willing to have the discussion. And as someone who knows better than most what it’s like to take up a controversial issue when it upsets your own base and your own supporters I appreciate what they’ve been going through. But this is the time to have some courage and do what you know is right for our state.”