Statement: Local Investment is Key to Our Shared Financial Future

Local Investment is Key to Our Shared Financial Future

9/19/2016

Vermont’s local economy is vital to the health of the State. In the State Treasurer ʼs Office, we partner with cities and towns, nonprofits, State authorities, citizen groups, the Governor and the Legislature to provide finance solutions that look to the future. Beginning in 2012, I convened a Local Investment Working Group that meets regularly to explore opportunities for local investment. As a result of that collaborative effort, we have been able to make investments in the Vermont Community Loan Fund, affordable housing, energy efficiency, and renewable energy investments. This is a win-win-win: in leveraging State resources, we get a guaranteed competitive rate while supporting local investment, economic development, and job creation while assisting in meeting the affordable housing and energy goals adopted by the Legislature.
I would like to highlight some of these initiatives.

The Treasurer’s Office extended $10 million to enable the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) to make loans and provide other forms of financing for projects that stimulate and encourage development and deployment of clean energy or energy efficiency technologies in the state of Vermont. This will reduce VEDA’s need to secure financing from out-of-state investment banks, reducing the cost of financing for these important projects.

By investing in Neighborworks of Western Vermont, we have assisted in expanding a successful residential energy efficiency program.

An investment of $2.8 million by the Treasurer’s Office with the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) has been used to support energy improvements in multi-family housing projects throughout Vermont. We also put the State’s moral obligation behind a $15 million bond refunding issue to lower the cost of a number of multi-family affordable housing projects.

In 2014, we worked with Efficiency Vermont, the Governor, and legislative leadership to propose legislation that would permit the Treasurer’s Office to invest up to $8 million in a revolving fund to make energy improvements/investments in State buildings.

We have partnered with the Vermont Community Loan Fund to provide loans.

I am committed to these initiatives as they are critical to sustaining economic growth and the quality of life for all Vermont residents in the future.
As we move forward on these and other efforts, I am grateful for your support and partnership. After all, that’s how we get things done in Vermont – through partnership, collaboration and commitment to our values. I look forward to working with you and can always be reached at bethpearce@myfairpoint.net or my personal cell, 802-498-3130.

The Deerfield Valley News: Towns, people pulled together after Irene

The Deerfield Valley News published an article looking back on the state’s response to Tropical Storm Irene. Treasurer Pearce is credited below as being an advocate for the affected towns in their recovery efforts by working to defer education taxes due to the State, while at the same time advance over $155 million in payments to cash-strapped communities.

Towns, people pulled together after Irene
by Mike Eldred

9/3/2016

Halifax Irene
Colored paper plates marked passable routes through Halifax after flooding devastated many roads.

HALIFAX- After Irene’s floodwaters receded on August 28, 2011, Halifax residents found themselves virtually isolated from their neighbors.

Unlike many valley towns, no houses in Halifax were destroyed by the flood. During the storm, emergency officials opened a shelter and briefly hosted two residents. In the morning they went home to find their house intact.

But the town’s public infrastructure had been hit hard. “Almost every road had some damage,” recalls Christina Moore, who became the town’s recovery officer in the storm’s aftermath. “We lost four bridges. We lost more than a mile of Green River Road.”

“Things didn’t look good,” says Lewis Sumner, the town’s emergency management director at the time. “Green River Road had a river running down where the road was supposed to be. A half mile stretch of Stowe Mountain Road was washed out 25 to 30 feet deep.”

One of the only roads in and out of town that remained open was Route 112, and even that was reduced to one precarious lane. Moore says getting in and out of town was “miserable,” and Sumner says even getting to residents in Halifax was difficult. “We had a lot of people who couldn’t get out. We sent people up with four-wheelers to take the food and supplies for a few days. Some people didn’t have phone or electricity – when Green River Road washed out, it took utility poles, trees, everything.”

Moore says the town was lucky to be well prepared to handle the situation thanks to their participation in emergency planning drills for Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Vernon. “Everyone involved with emergency services went to the fire department assuming there would be an emergency operations center,” Moore says. “That put the selectboard, emergency medical services, the fire department, and the highway department in the same room where they had trained every month for Vermont Yankee drills. So there was a sense of coordination from the beginning.”

As roads were repaired and opened in the days immediately following the flood, Halifax residents developed a network of routes over back roads to get people in and out of town. “Technically, we were never cut off, but it was a routing process no one would ever think of. It took a while to understand the route.”

The convoluted routes were a hot topic of conversation among residents, at least until someone thought to mark the routes. “We had all these teeny one-lane roads that you could get through on, but you had to be FedEx or EMS or the fire department to know the way. Someone came up with the idea of putting colored paper plates on trees to mark the routes – blue for Brattleboro, green for Greenfield, and white for Whitingham and Wilmington.”

Sumner says volunteers put the plates up in one day. News of the routes spread so fast that, by the next day, people from Wilmington were driving through Halifax to get to Brattleboro.

But even though most Halifax residents were able to navigate to work and to get groceries and supplies, the town was still facing $4.6 million in infrastructure repairs. “That’s more than five times the town’s annual budget of $800,000 (at the time),” Moore noted.

But Moore says there were a number of things working in Halifax’s favor. “The first thing was that the storm hit when taxes were due. Patty Dow, the town clerk and treasurer, was able to use the tax payments to pay bills.”

Moore and Sumner both say the state also stepped up. “State treasurer Beth Pearce really deserves a shout out,” Moore says. “She permitted towns to pay their taxes late. Technically, we used some state money to pay our emergency bills, but the state understood. As FEMA reimbursements came in, we paid the state.”

Moore says Pearce and the state also established a “hold harmless” rule limiting towns’ liability for recovery expenses to 3 cents on their tax rate. Under most emergency declarations, the federal government reimburses towns for 75% of qualified expenses, and the state of Vermont will pay an additional 10% to 15%, leaving towns to cover the remaing 5% or 10%. “But 5% or 10% of $4.5 million is still a bill we couldn’t cover,” Moore says. “What the state did meant we didn’t have to think about a bond or increasing taxes.”

Sumner says state highway officials were also very helpful when the town was having difficulty convincing a bank to give them a $2.5 million line of credit without an approved project in hand. “Finally we called Gary Shelley at VTrans. I asked if there was something the state could do. He looked things over and said ‘It looks like you’ve got a big project (Green River Road). We can write that up for $2.5 million and you can take that to the bank.’ He emailed it to the town office, and the town office emailed it to the bank, and the bank called right up and said the paperwork would be there in the morning. And it was.”

Sumner says the recovery in Halifax went well, and he credits Moore and other town officials. Halifax recently received their final reimbursement and closed the books on their recovery. “We were one of the towns with the most damage, and we got paid the quickest, with Christina doing the paperwork and keeping good records. FEMA likes pictures, and we took hundreds of pictures. When we had a picture of damage, they didn’t question it, they could see it.”

Vermont Biz: State Treasurer Pearce urges SEC to enhance climate risk reporting requirements

Posted by Vermont Biz:

State Treasurer Pearce urges SEC to enhance climate risk reporting requirements

Thu, 07/21/2016 – 11:20am —
Vermont Business Magazine Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce today called on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to take additional steps to ensure publicly traded companies and corporations properly disclose climate change risk. In a letter (see below) to SEC Chair Mary Jo White and SEC Corporation Finance Division Director Keith Higgins, Treasurer Pearce encouraged the SEC to create standards to assist investors in making informed investment decisions.

“Climate change is real and could impact the profitability of certain companies,” said Treasurer Pearce. “As a fiduciary overseeing the State’s investments, I encourage the SEC to create a publicly accessible database of climate change disclosures. More transparency will allow companies and investors to work together to better assess climate and carbon risk, and assist the SEC in its mission to create marketplace fairness.”

The letter builds on previous efforts to improve the SEC’s environmental disclosure requirements. In 2007, Vermont partnered with a group of investors representing $1.2 trillion of managed assets to petition the SEC to request certain climate-related information be included in corporate disclosures. The SEC responded in 2010 by issuing updated guidelines that direct companies and corporations to disclose climate change risk in SEC filings.

An analysis by Ceres, a nonprofit organization focused on mobilizing business and investor leadership on climate change, found that the 2010 SEC guidance led to a modest increase in the number of companies disclosing their exposure to climate change risk. To ensure more companies and corporations are compliant with environmental disclosure requirements, Treasurer Pearce’s July 20 letter made several recommendations to enhance the SEC’s efforts:

1) Create an interagency workgroup to review climate risks to businesses;

2) Create an SEC taskforce to review climate change disclosures, as per 2010 guidance;

3) Review best practices for sustainability and climate-related reporting;

4) Evaluate how risk and sustainability factors should be accounted for and disclosed;

5) Better account for carbon costs in baseline reserve analyses; and

6) Increase enforcement and outreach to companies that inadequately disclosure risk.

“I appreciate the SEC’s ongoing efforts to increase transparency. In that spirit, we ask for updated guidance so shareholders, like Vermont, have a clear understanding of how climate change risk could impact our investments. We hope the Commission will consider these recommendations to enhance transparency and accountability,” Treasurer Pearce concluded.

To read the entire article, click the link below
http://www.vermontbiz.com/news/july/state-treasurer-pearce-urges-sec-enhance-climate-risk-reporting-requirements