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Vermont (i /vərˈmɒnt/) is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state ranks 43rd by land area, 9,250 square miles (24,000 km2), and 45th by total area. It has a population of 621,270, making it the second least-populated state. The only New England state with no coastline along the Atlantic Ocean, Vermont is notable for Lake Champlain (which makes up 50% of Vermont's western border) and the Green Mountains, which run north to south. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, New Hampshire to the east, New York to the west, and the Canadian province of Quebec to the north.
Originally inhabited by Native American tribes (Abenaki and Iroquois), much of the territory that is now Vermont was claimed by France but became a British possession after France's defeat in the French and Indian War. For many years, the surrounding colonies disputed control of the area (referred to at the time as the New Hampshire Grants) especially New Hampshire and New York. Settlers who held land titles granted by these colonies were opposed by the Green Mountain Boys militia, which eventually prevailed in creating an independent state, the Vermont Republic, founded during the Revolutionary War and lasting for 14 years; Vermont is thus one of 17 U.S. states (along with Texas, Hawaii, the brief California Republic, and each of the original Thirteen Colonies) to have, at one point, existed as its own sovereign government. In 1791, Vermont joined the United States as the fourteenth state, and the first outside the original Thirteen Colonies.
It is the leading producer of maple syrup in the United States. The state capital is Montpelier, and the largest city and metropolitan area is Burlington. No other state has a largest city as small as Burlington, or a capital city as small as Montpelier.
Vermont is located in the New England region in the eastern United States and comprises 9,614 square miles (24,900 km2), making it the 45th-largest state. Of this, land makes up 9,250 square miles (24,000 km2) and water comprises 365 square miles (950 km2), making it the 43rd-largest in land area and the 47th in water area. In total area, it is larger than El Salvador and smaller than Haiti.
The west bank of the Connecticut River marks the eastern (New Hampshire) border of the state (the river itself is part of New Hampshire). Lake Champlain, the major lake in Vermont, is the sixth-largest body of fresh water in the United States and separates Vermont from New York in the northwest portion of the state. From north to south, Vermont is 159 miles (256 km) long. Its greatest width, from east to west, is 89 miles (143 km) at the Canadian border; the narrowest width is 37 miles (60 km) at the Massachusetts line. The state's geographic center is Washington, three miles (5 km) east of Roxbury.
The origin of the name Green Mountains (French: Les monts verts) is uncertain. Some authorities say that they are so named because they have much more forestation than the higher White Mountains of New Hampshire and Adirondacks of New York; others say that the predominance of mica-quartz-chlorite schist, a green-hued metamorphosed shale, is the reason. The Green Mountain range forms a north-south spine running most of the length of the state, slightly west of its center. In the southwest portion of the state are the Taconic Mountains; the Granitic Mountains are in the northeast. In the northwest, near Lake Champlain, is the fertile Champlain Valley. In the south of the valley is Lake Bomoseen.
Several mountains have timberlines with delicate year-round alpine ecosystems. These include Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain in the state; Killington Peak, the second-highest; Camel's Hump, the state's third-highest; and Mount Abraham, the fifth-highest peak. About 77% of the state is covered by forest; the rest is covered in meadow, uplands, lakes, ponds, and swampy wetlands.
Areas in Vermont administered by the National Park Service include the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (in Woodstock) and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
Cities (2008 estimated population):
Although these towns are large enough to be considered cities, they are not incorporated as such.
Largest towns (2008 estimated population):
Vermont has a humid continental climate, with warm, humid summers and cold winters that are colder at higher elevations. It has a Köppen climate classification of Dfb, similar to Minsk, Stockholm, and Fargo. Vermont is known for its mud season in spring, followed by a generally mild early summer, hot Augusts, a colorful autumn, and, in particular—its cold winters. The northern part of the state, including the rural northeastern section (dubbed the "Northeast Kingdom"), is known for exceptionally cold winters, often averaging 10°F (5.56°C) colder than the southern areas of the state. The annual snowfall averages between 60 inches (152 cm) to 100 inches (254 cm) depending on elevation, resulting in a number of cross-country and downhill ski areas. The annual mean temperature for the state is 43 °F (6 °C).
In the autumn, Vermont's hills display red, orange, and gold foliage displayed on the sugar maple as cold weather approaches. This display of color is not due so much to the presence of a particular variant of the sugar maple; rather, it is caused by a number of soil and climate conditions unique to the area.
The highest recorded temperature was 105 °F (41 °C), at Vernon, on July 4, 1911; the lowest recorded temperature was −50 °F (−45.6 °C), at Bloomfield, on December 30, 1933. This is the lowest temperature recorded in New England (Big Black River, Maine, also recorded a verified -50F, in 2009). The agricultural growing season ranges from 120–180 days.
There are five distinct physiographic regions of Vermont. Categorized by geological and physical attributes, they are the Northeastern Highlands, the Green Mountains, the Taconic Mountains, the Champlain Lowlands, and the Vermont Piedmont.
The state contains 41 species of reptiles and amphibians, 89 species of fish, 193 species of breeding birds, 58 species of mammals, more than 15,000 insect species, and 2,000 higher plant species, plus fungi, algae, and 75 different types of natural communities.
Vermont contains one venomous snake, the Eastern timber rattlesnake, which is confined to a few acres in western Rutland County.
By the mid-19th century, wild turkeys were exterminated in the state through overhunting and destruction of habitat. Sixteen were re-introduced in 1969 and had grown to an estimated flock of 45,000 in 2009.
Between 8500 to 7000 BC, at the time of the Champlain Sea, Native Americans inhabited and hunted in Vermont. During the Archaic period, from the 8th millennium BC to 1000 BC, Native Americans migrated year-round. During the Woodland period, from 1000 BC to AD 1600, villages and trade networks were established, and ceramic and bow and arrow technology was developed. In pre-Columbian Vermont, the western part of the state was originally home to a small population of Algonquian-speaking tribes, including the Mohican and Abenaki peoples. Sometime between 1500 and 1600, the Iroquois drove many of the smaller native tribes out of Vermont, later using the area as a hunting ground and warring with the remaining Abenaki. The population in 1500 was estimated to be around 10,000 people.
The first European to see Vermont is thought to have been Jacques Cartier, in 1535. On July 30, 1609, French explorer Samuel de Champlain claimed Vermont as part of New France, and erected a fort which was the first European settlement in Vermont.
In 1690, a group of Dutch-British settlers from Albany established a settlement and trading post at Chimney Point 8 miles (13 km) west of present-day Addison.
The first permanent British settlement was established in 1724, with the construction of Fort Dummer protecting the nearby settlements of Dummerston and Brattleboro.
From 1731-34, the French constructed a fort which gave the French control of the New France/Vermont border region in the Lake Champlain Valley.
The British failed to take the Fort St. Frédéric four times between 1755 and 1758. In 1759, a combined force of 12,000 British regular and provincial troops under Sir Jeffrey Amherst captured the fort. The French were driven out of the area.
Following France's loss in the French and Indian War, the 1763 Treaty of Paris gave control of the land to the British.
The end of the war brought new settlers to Vermont. Ultimately, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York all contended for this frontier area.
On March 20, 1764, King George III established the boundary between New Hampshire and New York along the west bank of the Connecticut River, north of Massachusetts, and south of 45 degrees north latitude. When New York refused to recognize land titles through the New Hampshire Grants (towns created earlier by New Hampshire in present Vermont), dissatisfied colonists organized in opposition, which led to the creation of independent Vermont on January 18, 1777.
In 1770, Ethan Allen, his brothers Ira and Levi, and Seth Warner recruited an informal militia, the Green Mountain Boys, to protect the interests of the original New Hampshire settlers against the new migrants from New York.
On January 18, 1777, representatives of the New Hampshire Grants declared the independence of Vermont. For the first six months of the state's existence, the state was called New Connecticut.
On June 2, 1777, a second convention of 72 delegates met to adopt the name "Vermont." This was on the advice of a friendly Pennsylvanian who wrote them on how to achieve admission into the newly independent United States as the 14th state. On July 4, the Constitution of Vermont was drafted at the Windsor Tavern adopted by the delegates on July 8. This was among the first written constitutions in North America and was indisputably the first to abolish the institution of slavery in its constitution, provide for universal male suffrage and require support of public schools. It was in effect from 1777 to 1791. Slavery was banned again by state law on November 25, 1858.
The Battle of Bennington, fought on August 16, 1777, was a seminal event in the history of the state of Vermont.
A combined American force, under General Stark's command, attacked the British column at Hoosick, New York, just across the border from Bennington and killed or captured virtually the entire British detachment. General Burgoyne never recovered from this loss and eventually surrendered the remainder of his 6,000-man force at Saratoga, New York, on October 17.
The Battles of Bennington and Saratoga are recognized as the turning point in the Revolutionary War because they were the first major defeat of a British army. The anniversary of the battle is still celebrated in Vermont as a legal holiday.
The Battle of Hubbardton (July 7, 1777) was the only battle fought in the territory and though the Continental forces were technically defeated, the British forces were damaged to the point that they did not pursue the Americans (retreating from Fort Ticonderoga) any further.
Vermont continued to govern itself as a sovereign entity based in the eastern town of Windsor for fourteen years. The independent state of Vermont issued its own coinage from 1785-1788 and operated a statewide postal service. Thomas Chittenden was the Governor in 1778-1789 and in 1790-1791. The state exchanged ambassadors with France, the Netherlands, and the American government then at Philadelphia. In 1791, Vermont joined the Federal union as the fourteenth state, and the first to enter the Union after the original thirteen colonies.
Vermont had a unicameral legislature until 1836.
The mid-1850s onwards saw a transition from Vermonters mostly favoring slavery's containment, to a far more serious opposition to the institution, producing the Radical Republican and abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens. While the Whig Party shriveled, and the Republican Party emerged, Vermont strongly trended in support of its candidates. In 1860, it voted for President Abraham Lincoln, giving him the largest margin of victory of any state.
During the American Civil War, Vermont sent more than 34,000 men into United States service. Almost 5,200 Vermonters, 15%, were killed or mortally wounded in action or died of disease, a higher percentage than any other state.
The northernmost land action of the war, the St. Albans Raid, took place in Vermont.
The first election in which women were allowed to vote was on December 18, 1880, when women were granted limited suffrage and were first allowed to vote in town elections, and then in state legislative races.
Large-scale flooding occurred in early November 1927. During this incident, 84 people died including the state's lieutenant-governor. Another flood occurred in 1973, when the flood caused the death of two people and millions of dollars in property damage.
In 1964, the US Supreme Court forced “one-man, one-vote” redistricting on Vermont, giving cities an equitable share of votes in both houses for the entire country. Until that time, counties had often been represented by area in state senates and were often unsympathetic to urban problems requiring increased taxes.
The center of population of Vermont is located in Washington County, in the town of Warren.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2005, Vermont has an estimated population of 623,050, which is an increase of 1,817, or 0.3%, from the prior year and an increase of 14,223, or 2.3%, since the year 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 7,148 people (33,606 births minus 26,458 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 7,889 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 4,359 people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 3,530 people. In 2004, more than half of Vermont's population was born outside the state.
It is the least populous state in New England. In 2006, it has the second lowest birthrate in the nation, 42/1000 women. The median age of the work force was 42.3, the highest in the nation.
In 2009, 12.6% of people over 15 are divorced. This is the fifth highest percentage in the nation.
Vermont's population is:
Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Vermont ranks:
The largest ancestry groups are:
Residents of British ancestry (especially English) live throughout most of Vermont. The northern part of the state maintains a significant percentage of people of French-Canadian ancestry. Some vestiges of a Vermont accent are heard but the population has become more homogenized around American standard English in recent years.
According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 2.54% of the population aged five and older speak French at home, while 1.00% speak Spanish.
In colonial times, like many of its neighboring states, Vermont's largest religious affiliation was Congregationalism. In 1776, 63% of affiliated church members in Vermont were Congregationalists. At that time, however, only 9% of people belonged to a specific church due to the remoteness of population centers. The Congregational United Church of Christ remains the largest Protestant denomination and Vermont has the largest percentage of this denomination of any state.
In 2008, over half of Vermont residents identified themselves as Christians. The largest single religious body in the state is the Roman Catholic Church. According to the ARDA the Catholic Church had 147,918 members in 2000.
Twenty-four percent of Vermonters attended church regularly. This low is matched nationally only by New Hampshire.
In 2008 thirty-four percent of Vermonters claimed no religion; this is the highest percentage in the nation. A survey suggested that people in Vermont and New Hampshire which were polled jointly, were less likely to attend weekly services and are less likely to believe in God (54%) than people in the rest of the nation (71%). The two states were at the lowest levels among states in religious commitment. About 23% percent of the respondents attended religious service at least once a week (39% nationally). Thirty-six percent said religion is very important to them (56% nationally).
Almost one-third of Vermonters were self-identified Protestants. The largest Protestant denomination in the state was the United Church of Christ with 21,597, and the second largest is the United Methodist Church with 19,000 members; followed by Episcopalians, "other" Christians, and Baptists.
Joseph Smith, Jr. and Brigham Young—the first two leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—were both born in Vermont. A memorial to Joseph Smith, at his birthplace in Sharon, is maintained by the LDS.
The state had 5,000 people of Jewish faith - 3,000 in Burlington and 500 each in Montpelier-Barre and Rutland.
Vermont may have the highest concentration of western-convert Buddhists in the country. It is home to several Buddhist retreat centers.
The state was estimated to be home to 2,000 people of Islamic faith, belonging to a wide variety of traditions.
In 2007, Vermont was ranked 32nd among states in which to do business. It was 30th the previous year.
In 2008, an economist said that the state had "a really stagnant economy, which is what we are forecasting for Vermont for the next 30 years."
According to the 2005 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis report, Vermont’s gross state product (GSP) was $23 billion. This places the state 50th among the 50 states. It stood 38th in per capita GSP. The per capita personal income was $32,770 in 2004.
Components of GSP were:
Canada was Vermont's number one external trading partner in 2007, followed by Taiwan. The state had $4 billion worth of commerce with Quebec.
One measure of economic activity is retail sales. The state had $5.2 billion in 2007.
In 2008, 8,631 new businesses were registered in Vermont, a decline of 500 from 2007.
The median household income from 2002-2004 was $45,692. This was 15th nationally. The median wage in the state in 2008 was $15.31 hourly or $31,845 annually.
About 80% of the 68,000 Vermonters who qualify for food stamps, actually received them in 2007. 40% of seniors 75 years or older live on annual incomes of $21,660 or less.
In the quarter ending September 2008, the state had the lowest credit card delinquency rate in the country, 0.70%.
While the number of houses sold in the state has dropped from 8,318 in 2004, to 8,120 (2005), 6,919 (2006) and 5,820 (2007), the average price has continued to rise to $202,500 in 2008 ($200,000 in 2007).
In the quarter ending September 2008, the state had the fourth lowest mortgage payment delinquency rate in the country, 1.8%.
Agriculture contributes $2.6 billion, about 12%, directly and indirectly to the state's economy.
Over the past two centuries, logging has fallen off as over-cutting and the exploitation of other forests made Vermont's forest less attractive. The decline of farms has resulted in a regrowth of Vermont's forests due to ecological succession. Today, most of Vermont's forests consist of second-growth.
Of the remaining industries, dairy farming is the primary source of agricultural income.
In the last half of the twentieth century, developers had plans to build condos and houses on what was relatively inexpensive, open land. Vermont's government responded with a series of laws controlling development and with some pioneering initiatives to prevent the loss of Vermont's dairy industry.
In 1947 there were 11,206 dairy farms in the state. In 2003 there were fewer than 1,500, a decline of more than 85%. The number of cattle had declined by 40%. However, milk production had doubled in the same period due to tripling the production per cow. In 2007, there were 1,087 farms left, down from 1,138 in 2006. The number has been diminishing by 10% annually. While milk production rose, Vermont's market share declined. Within a group of states supplying the Boston-NYC market, Vermont was third with a 10.6% share of the market. In 2007, dairy farmers received a record $23.60 for 100 pounds (45 kg) of milk. This dropped in 2008 to $17. The average dairy farm produced 1.3 million pounds of milk annually in 2008.
In 2009, there were 543 organic farms. Twenty percent of the dairy farms were organic. Twenty-three percent (128) vegetable farms were organic. Organic farming increased in 2006-7, but leveled off in 2008-9. Nor are any expected for 2010.
A significant amount of milk is shipped into the Boston market. Therefore the Commonwealth of Massachusetts certifies that Vermont farms meet Massachusetts sanitary standards. Without this certification, a farmer may not sell milk for distribution into the bulk market.
An important and growing part of Vermont's economy is the manufacture and sale of artisan foods, fancy foods, and novelty items trading in part upon the Vermont "brand" which the state manages and defends. Examples of these specialty exports include Cabot Cheese, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, Fine Paints of Europe, Vermont Butter and Cheese Company, several micro breweries, ginseng growers, Burton Snowboards, Lake Champlain Chocolates, King Arthur Flour, and Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream.
There were about 2,000 maple products producers in 2010. In 2001, Vermont produced 275,000 US gallons (1,040,000 L) of maple syrup, about one-quarter of U.S. production. For 2005 that number was 410,000 US gallons (1,600,000 l; 340,000 imp gal) accounting for 37% of national production. This rose to 920,000 US gallons (3,500,000 l; 770,000 imp gal) in 2009.
In 2000, only 3% of the state's working population was still engaged in agriculture.
Wine industry in Vermont started in 1985. There are 14 wineries today.
Farms in the state were estimated to have hired 2,000 illegal immigrants as of 2005. Local authorities have ignored the problem, sympathizing with the employers about being able to efficiently run a farm.
IBM, in Essex Junction, is Vermont's largest for-profit employer. It provides 25% of all manufacturing jobs in Vermont. In 2007 it employed 6,800 workers. It is responsible for $1 billion of the state's annual economy.
An increasingly aging population is expected to improve this industry's position in the state economy. In 2008, Fletcher Allen Health Care was the second highest employer of people in the state.
In 2007 Vermont was the 17th highest state in the nation for mortgage affordability. However, in 41 other states, inhabitants contributed within plus or minus 4% of Vermont's 18.4% of household income to a mortgage.
Housing prices did not rise that much during the early 2000s. As a result, the collapse in real estate values was not that precipitous either. While foreclosure rose significantly in 2007, the state stood 50th (last, and best) in ratio of foreclosure filings to households. While housing sales dropped annually from 2004 to 2008, prices continued to rise.
In 2007, Vermont was best in the country for construction of new energy efficient homes as evaluated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under the Energy Star program. However, about 60% of Vermont homes heated with oil in 2008. In August 2008, the cost in Vermont of various heating sources per 1 million BTU ranged from $14.39 for cord wood to $43.50 for kerosene.
As of 2006, there were 305,000 workers in Vermont. 11% of these are unionized.
Out of a workforce of 299,200 workers, 52,000 were government jobs, federal, state and local.
A modern high unemployment rate of 9% was reached in June 1976. A modern low of 2.4% was measured in February 2000. As of January 2010, the unemployment rate was 6.7%.
Captive insurance plays an increasingly large role in Vermont's economy. With this form of alternative insurance, large corporations or industry associations form standalone insurance companies to insure their own risks, thereby substantially reducing their insurance premiums and gaining a significant measure of control over types of risks to be covered. There are also significant tax advantages to be gained from the formation and operation of captive insurance companies. According to the Insurance Information Institute, Vermont in 2004 was the world's third-largest domicile for captive insurance companies, following Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. In 2008, there were 550 such companies.
Tourism is a large industry in the state. In winter, the ski resorts Burke Mountain, Stowe, Smugglers' Notch, Killington Ski Resort, Mad River Glen, Sugarbush, Stratton, Jay Peak, Okemo, Suicide Six, Mount Snow and Bromley host skiers from around the globe, although their largest markets are the Boston, Montreal and New York metropolitan areas. In the summer, resort towns like Stowe, Manchester, Quechee, Wilmington and Woodstock host visitors. Resorts, hotels, restaurants, and shops, designed to attract tourists, employ people year-round.
Summer camps contribute to Vermont's tourist economy. Trout fishing, lake fishing, and ice fishing draw outdoor enthusiasts to the state, as does the hiking on the Long Trail. In winter, nordic and backcountry skiers visit to travel the length of the state on the Catamount Trail. Several horse shows are annual events. Vermont's state parks, historic sites, museums, golf courses, and new boutique hotels with spas were designed to attract tourists.
According to the 2000 Census, almost 15% of all housing units in Vermont were vacant and classified "for seasonal, recreational, or occasional use". This was the second highest percentage nationwide, after Maine. In some Vermont cities, vacation homes owned by wealthy residents of New England and New York City constitute the bulk of all housing stock. According to one estimate, as of 2009, 84% of all houses in Ludlow, Vermont were owned by out-of-state residents. Other notable vacation-home resorts include Manchester and Stowe.
In 2005, visitors made an estimated 13.4 million trips to the state, spending $1.57 billion.
In 2008, there were 35,000 members of 138 snowmobiling clubs in Vermont. The combined association of clubs maintains 6,000 miles of trail often over private lands. The industry is said to generate "hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business."
Hunting is controlled for black bear, wild turkeys, deer, and moose.
The towns of Rutland and Barre are the traditional centers of marble and granite quarrying and carving in the U.S. For many years Vermont was also the headquarters of the smallest union in the U.S., the Stonecutters Association, of about 500 members. The first marble quarry in America was on Mount Aeolus overlooking East Dorset. Up the western side of the state runs the "Marble Valley" joining up with the "Slate Valley" that runs from just inside New York across from Chimney Point until it meets the "Granite Valley" that runs west past Barre, home of the Rock of Ages quarry, the largest granite quarry in America. Vermont is the largest producer of slate in the country. Production of dimension stone is the greatest producer of revenues by quarrying.
There were 2,682 non-profit organizations in Vermont in 2008, with $2.8 billion in revenue.
The state ranked ninth in the country for volunteerism for the period 2005-8. 35.6% of the population volunteered during this period. The national average was 26.4%.
Vermont's main mode of travel is by automobile. The state was ranked third lowest for vehicular-related deaths in 2009. On average, 20-25 people have lost their lives to drunk drivers; and 70-80 people have died in fatal car crashes in the state.
Individual communities and counties have public transit, but their breadth of coverage is frequently limited. Greyhound Lines services a number of small towns. Two Amtrak trains serve Vermont.
Trucks weighing more than 80,000 pounds (36,000 kg) can use Vermont's secondary roads. The interstates are limited to that maximum weight. A temporary federal law allowed heavier loads on Vermont interstates for one year in 2010.
The state has 2,843 miles (4,575 km) of highways under its control.
For a more detailed explanation see a List of Routes in Vermont.
A 2005-6 study ranked Vermont 37th out of the states for "cost-effective road maintenance", a decline of thirteen places since 2004-5.
Federal data indicates that 16% of Vermont's 2,691 bridges had been rated structurally deficient by the state in 2006. In 2007 Vermont had the sixth worst percentage of structurally deficient bridges in the country.
The state is served by Amtrak's Vermonter,[clarification needed] the New England Central Railroad, the Vermont Railway, and the Green Mountain Railroad.
The Ethan Allen Express serves Rutland and Fair Haven, while the Vermonter serves Saint Albans, Essex Junction, Waterbury, Montpelier, Randolph, White River Junction, Windsor, Bellows Falls and Brattleboro.
Greyhound Bus Lines stops at Bellows Falls, Brattleboro, Burlington, Montpelier, and White River Junction.
Vermont is served by two commercial airports:
2008 peak demand in the state was 1,100 megawatts (MW).
In May 2009, Vermont created the first state-wide renewable energy feed-in law. In 2010, there were about 150 methane digesters in the nation, Vermont led the nation with six online.
While Vermont paid the lowest rates in New England for power in 2007, it is still ranked among the highest eleven states in the nation; that is, about 16% higher than the national average.
In 2009, the state had the highest energy rates for energy (including heating) in the US and the worst affordability gap nationwide.
In 2009, the state got 1/3 or 400 MW of its power from Hydro-Québec and 1/3 from Vermont Yankee. In total, the state got half its power from Canada and other states. It got 75% of the power it generated in the state from Vermont Yankee.
The state's two largest electric utilities, Green Mountain Power Corporation and Central Vermont Public Service Corporation, together serve 80% of Vermont households.
Vermont experts estimate that the state has the capacity to ultimately generate from 134 to 175 megawatts of electricity from hydro power.
In 2006, the total summer generating capacity of Vermont was 1,117 megawatts. In 2005, the inhabitants of the state used an average of 5,883 kilowatt hours of electricity per capita. Another source says that each household consumed 7,100 kilowatt-hours annually in 2008.
Vermont has the highest rate of nuclear-generated power in the nation, 73.7%. As one result, Vermont is one of only two states with no coal-fired power plant.
All Vermont utilities get their power from lines run by ISO New England. Each utility pays a share of transmitting power over these lines. Vermont's share is about 4.5%.
The state has 78 hydro power dams. They generate 143 megawatts, about 12% of the state's total requirement.
(Above percentages are of population, not of land area.)
Generally, cell phone coverage in the state outside of the major metropolitan areas is weak due to interference from mountains. Attempts to serve a small rural population living in a large area renders investment in improvements uneconomical. Unicel, which focused on rural areas and covered much of the state, is now owned by AT&T.
In May 2007, Vermont passed measures intended to make broadband (3 mbits minimum) together with cellular coverage universally available to all citizens with the intention of having the first e-state in the Union by 2010.
In 2008 Comcast started to extend additional cable access throughout the state. In 2007, 2/3 of all Vermonters had access to cable. At the end of this 2008 initiative, 90% of Vermonters will have access.
Vermont is federally represented in the United States Congress by two senators and one representative.
The state is governed by a constitution which divides governmental duties into legislative, executive and judicial branches: the Vermont General Assembly, the Governor of Vermont and the Vermont Supreme Court. The governorship and the General Assembly serve two-year terms including the governor and 30 senators. There are no term limits for any office. The state capital is in Montpelier.
There are three types of incorporated municipalities in Vermont: towns, cities, and villages. Like most of New England, there is slight provision for autonomous county government. Counties and county seats are merely convenient repositories for various government services such as County and State Courts, with several elected officers such as a State's Attorney and Sheriff. All county services are directly funded by the state of Vermont. The next effective governmental level below state government are municipalities. Most of these are towns.
Vermont is the only state in the union not to have a balanced budget requirement and yet Vermont has had a balanced budget every year since 1991. In 2007, Moody's Investors Service gave its top rating of Aaa to the state.
The state uses enterprise funds for operations that are similar to private business enterprises. The Vermont Lottery Commission, the Liquor Control Fund, and the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund, are the largest of the State’s enterprise funds.
In 2007 Vermont stood 14th highest out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for state and local taxation, with a per capita load of $3,681. The national average was $3,447. However, CNNMoney ranked Vermont highest in the nation based on the percentage of per capita income. The rankings showed Vermont had a per capita tax load of $5,387, 14.1% of the per capita income of $38,306.
Vermont collects personal income tax in a progressive structure of five different income brackets, with marginal tax rates ranging from 3.6% to 9.5%.
In 2008, the top one percent of the residents provided 30% of the income tax revenue. 2,000 people had sufficient income to be taxed at the highest marginal rate of 9.5%.
Vermont's general sales tax rate is 6%, which is imposed on sales of tangible personal property, amusement charges, fabrication charges, some public utility charges and some service contracts (some towns and cities impose an additional 1% Local Option Tax). There are 46 exemptions from the tax which include medical items, food, manufacturing machinery, equipment and fuel, residential fuel and electricity, clothing, and shoes. A use tax is imposed on the buyer at the same rate as the sales tax. The buyer pays the use tax when the seller fails to collect the sales tax or the items are purchased from a source where no tax is collected. The use tax applies to items taxable under the sales tax.
Vermont does not collect inheritance taxes; however, its estate tax is decoupled from the federal estate tax laws and therefore the state still imposes its own estate tax.
Property taxes are imposed for the support of education and municipal services. Vermont does not assess tax on personal property.
Property taxes are levied by municipalities based on fair market appraisal of real property. Rates vary from .97% on homesteaded property in Ferdinand, Essex County, to 2.72% on nonresidents' property in Barre City. Statewide, towns average 1.77% to 1.82% tax rate.
In 2007, Vermont counties were among the highest in the country for property taxes. Chittenden ($3,809 median), Windham ($3,412), Addison ($3,352), and Windsor ($3,327) ranked in the top 100, out of 1,817 counties in the nation with populations greater than 20,000. Twelve of the state's 14 counties stood in the top 20%.
To equitably support education, some towns are required by Act 60 to send some of their collected taxes to be redistributed to school districts lacking adequate support.
Vermonters have been known for their political independence. Vermont is one of four states that were once independent nations (the others being Texas, California, and Hawaii). It has sometimes voted contrarian in national elections. Notably, Vermont is the only state to have voted for a presidential candidate from the Anti-Masonic Party, and Vermont was one of only two states to vote against Franklin D. Roosevelt in all four of his presidential campaigns (the other was Maine).
Vermont's history of independent political thought has led to movements for the establishment of the Second Vermont Republic and other plans advocating secession.
Historically, Vermont was considered one of the most reliably Republican states in the country in terms of national elections. Prior to the 1990s, Vermont had voted Democratic only once, in Lyndon Johnson's landslide victory of 1964 against Barry Goldwater. In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, Republican presidential candidates frequently won the state with over 70% of the vote. Republicans also dominated local Vermont politics from the party's founding in 1854 until the mid-1970s. Prior to the 1960s, rural interests dominated the legislature. As a result, cities, particularly the older sections of Burlington and Winooski, were neglected and fell into decay. People began to move out to newer suburbs.
In the meantime, many people had moved in from out of state. Much of this immigration included the arrival of more liberal political influences of the urban areas of New York and New England in Vermont. In addition, a series of one man, one vote decisions made by the United States Supreme Court in the 1960s required states to redraw their legislative districts to more fairly reflect population. As a result, urban areas in Vermont began to regain some political power.
In 1992, it supported a Democrat for president, the first time the state had done so since 1964, and has voted Democratic in every presidential election since. Vermont gave John Kerry his fourth-largest margin of victory in 2004. He won the state's popular vote by 20 percentage points over incumbent George W. Bush, taking almost 59% of the vote. Essex County in the state's northeastern section was the only county to vote for Bush. Vermont is the only state that did not receive a visit from George W. Bush when he was President of the United States. In the 2000 Presidential Elections, Bush was the first Republican in American history to win the White House without carrying Vermont. Vermont gave Barack Obama his third largest winning margin (37 percentage points) winning there 68%-31%. On the other hand, Republican Governor Douglas won all counties but Windham in the 2006 election.
Today, Vermont is one of only two states represented by a member of the United States Congress who does not currently associate with a political party: Senator Bernie Sanders describes his political views as democratic socialism, but is officially registered as an independent and caucuses with the Democrats in the selection of the Senate leadership.
After the legislature was redistricted under one-person, one-vote in the 1960s, it passed legislation to accommodate the new arrivals to the state. This legislation was the Land Use and Development Law (Act 250) in 1970. The law, which was the first of its kind in the nation, created nine District Environmental Commissions consisting of private citizens, appointed by the Governor, who must approve land development and subdivision plans that would have a significant impact on the state's environment and many small communities. As a result of Act 250, Vermont was the last state to get a Wal-Mart (there are now four in the state, as of December 2009, but only the Williston store was new construction). Because of the success of Act 250, subsequent attempts to dilute its power, and other development pressures, Vermont has been designated one of America's most "endangered historic places" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
A recent controversy was over the adoption of civil unions, an institution which grants same-sex couples nearly all the rights and privileges of marriage at the state, but not federal, level. In Baker v. Vermont (1999), the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that, under the Constitution of Vermont, the state must either allow same-sex marriage or provide a separate but equal status for them. The state legislature chose the second option by creating the institution of civil union; the bill was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Howard Dean. In April 2009 the state legislature overrode the governor's veto to allow same-sex marriage. In September 2009, Vermont became one of six states in which same-sex couples could marry.
In 2007, when confronted with an allegedly liberal issue, assisted suicide for the terminally ill, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives rejected the measure by a vote of 82-63.
Minor parties and Independents flourish. Rules which eliminate smaller parties from the ballot in most states do not exist in Vermont. As a result, voters often have extensive choices for general elections. This has resulted in Independent Socialist Bernie Sanders being elected mayor of Burlington, Congressman, and Senator. It also led to Vermont having three major parties instead of the normal two, the Democratic Party, Republican Party, and the Progressive Party.
A political issue has been Act 60, which balances taxation for education funding. This has resulted in the town of Killington trying to secede from Vermont and join New Hampshire due to what the locals say is an unfair tax burden.
A movement favors separating Vermont from the U.S. or making it the 11th province of Canada. Some suggest the state should join Canada due to its liberal policies as opposed to remaining with the U.S.
The Vermont constitution and the courts supports the right of a person to walk (fish and hunt) on any unposted, unfenced land. That is, trespass must be proven by the owner; it is not automatically assumed.
The state is an alcoholic beverage control state. In 2007, through the Vermont Department of Liquor Control, it took in over $14 million from the sale and distribution of liquor.
In 2010 Vermont was the sixth highest ranked state for Well-Being in a study by Gallup and Healthways.
In the first national survey by Robert Wood Johnson and the University of Wisconsin in 2010, Vermont ranked the highest in the country for health outcomes.
In 2008 Vermont was ranked number one in the nation as the healthiest place to live for the seventh time in eight years. Criteria included low teenage birth rate, strong health coverage, the lowest AIDS rate in the country, and 18 other factors. The state scored well in cessation of smoking, obesity, fewer occupational fatalities, prevalence of health insurance, and low infant mortality. A problem area was a high prevalence of binge drinking. While ranking sixth from best for adults in obesity in 2009, the state still had 22.1% obese with a rate of 26.7% for children 10-17. The ranking for children was ninth best in the nation.
In 2009, Vermont was ranked second in the nation for safety. Crime statistics on violence were used for the criteria. Vermont has some of the least restrictive gun control laws in the country. A permit or license is not required for the purchase or concealed carry of a firearm (including handguns) by any law-abiding person.
In 2007, Vermont was ranked among the best five states in the country for preventing "premature death" in people under 75 years of age. The rate of survival was twice that of the five lowest performing states.
In 2007, Vermont was ranked the third safest state for highway fatalities. In 2007, a third of fatal crashes involved a drunken driver. In 2008, Vermont was the fifth best state for fewest uninsured motorists - 6%.
Parts of the state have been declared federal disaster areas on 28 occasions from 1963 to 2008.
In 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency cited Chittenden and Bennington as counties with 70 parts of smog per billion which is undesirable.
In northern Vermont particularly, moose are not uncommon, including in urban areas. They constitute a traffic threat since they are unaware of vehicles. There are several deaths each year from automobiles striking moose.
In 2008, about 100,000 Vermonters got their health care through the federal government, Medicare, Tri-Care and the Veteran's Administration. An additional 10,000 work for employers who provide insurance under federal law under ERISA. About 20% of Vermonters receive health care outside of Vermont. 20% of the care provided within the state is to non-Vermonters. In 2008, the state had an estimated 7.6% with no medical insurance, down from 9.8% in 2005. In 2008, the Vermont Health Access Program for low-income, uninsured adults cost from $7 to $49 per month. A "Catamount Health" premium assistance program was available for Vermonters who don't qualify for other programs. Total monthly premiums ranged from $60 to $393 for an individual. There was a $250 deductible. Insured paid $10 toward each generic prescription. 16.9% of residents 18 to 35 were uninsured, the highest group.
Health care spending increased from $2.3 billion in 2000 to $4.8 billion in 2009. In 2009, adult day care services cost more in Vermont than any other state - $150 daily.
The state started air drops of rabies bait for raccoons in 1997. Known rabies cases in raccoons peaked in 2007 at 165. The program is in cooperation with neighboring states and Canada.
In March 2008, The American State Litter Scorecard, presented at the American Society for Public Administration national conference, rated Vermont along with Minnesota a topmost Best state for overall litter/debris removals from public properties (roadways, streams, trails), resulting in a high environmental quality status for landscapes.
Vermont was named the nation's smartest state in 2005 and 2006. In 2006, there was a gap between state testing standards and national which is biased in favor of the state standards by 30%, on average. This puts Vermont 11th best in the nation. Most states have a higher bias. However, when allowance for race is considered, a 2007 US Government list of test scores shows Vermont white fourth graders performed 25th in the nation for reading (229), 26th for math (247). White eight graders scored 18th for math (292) and 12th for reading (273). The first three scores were not considered statistically different from average. White eighth graders scored significantly above average in reading. Statistics for black students were not reliable because of their small representation in the testing.
The average effective spending per pupil in Vermont was $11,548 in 2008.
Experimentation at the University of Vermont by George Perkins Marsh, and later the influence of Vermont born philosopher and educator John Dewey brought about the concepts of electives and learning by doing.
Vermont has five colleges within the Vermont State Colleges system, University of Vermont (UVM), fourteen other private, degree-granting colleges, including Bennington College, Burlington College, Champlain College, Goddard College, Marlboro College, Middlebury College, a private, co-educational liberal arts college founded in 1800, Saint Michael's College, the Vermont Law School, and Norwich University, the oldest private military college in the United States and birthplace of ROTC, founded in 1819.
Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, Soccer, and Snowsports are the most popular sports in the state. Notable in the field are Olympic gold medalists Hannah Teter, Ross Powers and Hannah Kearney. Baseball is the summer pastime of Vermont and many small towns field Little League teams.
The largest professional franchise is the Vermont Lake Monsters, a single-A minor league baseball affiliate of the Washington Nationals, based in Burlington. They were named the Vermont Expos prior to 2006.
The Vermont Frost Heaves, the 2007 and 2008 American Basketball Association national champions, are a franchise of the Premier Basketball League, and have been based in Barre and Burlington since the fall of 2006.
However, the University of Vermont's sports teams draw the largest following and are the most beloved sports teams in the state. The men's basketball and hockey teams are the most notable.
Vermont is home to a semi-professional football team, the Vermont Ice Storm, based in South Hero. It plays its home games at the Colchester High School stadium. It is a member of the Empire Football League.
The Vermont Voltage is a USL Premier Development League soccer club that plays in St. Albans.
Annually since 2002, high school statewide all stars compete against New Hampshire in ten sports during "Twin State" playoffs.
Vermont festivals include the Vermont Maple Festival, Festival on the Green, The Vermont Dairy Festival in Enosburg Falls, the Apple Festival (held each Columbus Day Weekend), the Marlboro Music Festival, the Vermont Mozart Festival, and the Vermont Brewers Festival. The Vermont Symphony Orchestra is supported by the state and performs throughout the area. The Poetry Society of Vermont publishes a literary magazine called The Green Mountain Troubadore which encourages submissions from members of various ages. Every year they hold various contests - one being for high school age young people. The Brattleboro-based Vermont Theatre Company presents an annual summer Shakespeare festival. Brattleboro also hosts the summertime Strolling of the Heifers parade which celebrates Vermont's unique dairy culture. Montpelier is home to the annual Green Mountain Film Festival.
In the Northeast Kingdom, the Bread and Puppet Theatre holds weekly shows in Glover in a natural outdoor amphitheater.
Vermont's most recent best known musical talent was the group Phish, whose members met while attending school in Vermont and spent much of their early years playing at venues across the state.
The Vermont-based House of LeMay, performs several shows a year, hosts the annual "Winter is a Drag Ball," and performs for fundraisers.
The rate of volunteerism in Vermont was 8th in the nation with 37% in 2007. The state stood first in New England.
State symbols include:
Vermont is distinct for being among only three U.S. states with both a state seal and a coat of arms. Vermont is the only U.S. state to have a heraldically correct blazon describing its coat of arms.
Vermont is the birthplace of former presidents Calvin Coolidge and Chester A. Arthur.