Beth Pearce

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Governor-elect must decide on pension funding

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MONTPELIER — State Treasurer Beth Pearce has released the amount of money the state should set aside in next year’s budget for pension funds, leaving the winner of next Tuesday’s gubernatorial election to decide whether the state will provide 100 percent in their first recommended state budget. Pearce said the actuaries have recommended the state contribute $52,065,396 into the state employees’ pension fund. That amount would cover annual contributions and continue on a course to have the state employees’ pension system retire all of its unfunded liabilities by 2038. The payment in the pension, known as the actuarially required contribution, or ARC, was calculated by the state’s actuary, Buck Consultants, according to Pearce. She said the firm reviews census information to determine how much should be set aside. Continue Reading →

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Sanders finally backs Minter, statewide Dems

Former Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., smiles before asking that Hillary Clinton become the unanimous choice for President of the United States with the Vermont delegation during the second day session of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

MONTPELIER — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has finally proffered his coveted endorsement to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Sue Minter and the entire slate of statewide Democratic candidates. Sanders, easily the most popular politician in the state, announced his endorsements in a news release Thursday afternoon without any fanfare. They include U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, his colleagues in Congress. For state offices, Sanders is backing Treasurer Beth Pearce, Auditor Doug Hoffer, Secretary of State Jim Condos and T.J. Donovan for attorney general. Chittenden County Sen. David Zuckerman, the Democratic and Progressive nominee for lieutenant governor, was previously endorsed by Sanders. Continue Reading →

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Work begins on potential dam purchase

House Speaker Shap Smith speaks at a news conference announcing the formation of a working group to determine if the state should consider purchasing hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers. Gov. Peter Shumlin, left, and Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell, right, were on hand to announce the working group. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin and legislative leaders announced the formation of a working group Tuesday to explore a potential state purchase of hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers. The announcement came ahead of an afternoon hearing held by the Senate Finance and Government Operations Committees to begin gathering information on the dams, and what it will take to for the state to purchase them. TransCanada put 13 dams located on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers on the market on March 17 as part of an effort to acquire Columbia Pipeline Group, a Texas-based firm that operates a natural gas pipeline between New York and the Gulf of Mexico, for $13 billion. The sale process involves a total of 4,600 megawatts of power in TransCanada’s northeast power portfolio, including the hydroelectric plants in Vermont that total 560 megawatts, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Link. TransCanada purchased the dams in 2005 for $505 million. Continue Reading →

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Potential dam purchase gets bipartisan support

The Wilder dam on the Connecticut River is among the 13 hydroelectric facilities put on the market by TransCanada. (Len Emery)

MONTPELIER — State officials are mobilizing to explore the potential purchase of hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers, but plenty of obstacles remain in the way to complete a purchase the state passed on just over a decade ago. TransCanada put the 13 dams on the market on March 17 as part of an effort to acquire Columbia Pipeline Group, a Texas-based firm that operates a natural gas pipeline between New York and the Gulf of Mexico, for $13 billion. The sale process involves a total of 4,600 megawatts of power in TransCanada’s northeast power portfolio, including the hydroelectric plants on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers that total 560 megawatts, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Link. The move has prompted a bipartisan group of state officials, including Gov. Peter Shumlin and House Speaker Shap Smith, both Democrats, and Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, to express interest in purchasing the dams through a state-owned power authority. A similar effort under former Gov. Jim Douglas was made in 2005, but TransCanada outbid the state with its $505 million offer. Continue Reading →

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Treasurer: Pension funds need financing changes

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MONTPELIER — Vermont’s three pension funds were battered by the Great Recession and are currently funded below levels recommended by actuaries, but the state has made some adjustments to improve their positions and state Treasurer Beth Pearce says she will seek long-term changes to the way they are financed to further ensure stability. Vermont, like many other states, has struggled to fund the retirement benefits promised to teachers and state and municipal employees. The cost of health care benefits for retirees has grown faster than revenue growth, and the pension funds the state manages saw market losses during the Great Recession. The three pension funds managed by the state — for teachers, state workers and municipal workers — provide retirement benefits, including health care, to tens of thousands of Vermonters. There are more than 8,000 active state employees, and nearly 10,000 active teachers and more than 6,600 active municipal employees. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers look to retirement bonuses to save the state money

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin administration has proposed a retirement incentive package for state employees that could save the state $2.5 million, providing most of the retirees are not replaced. Monday morning, the Senate Appropriations Committee reviewed a proposal that would offer financial bonus to as many as 300 employees who are already eligible to retire, with the goal of leaving 75 percent of those positions vacant after the employees retire. The offer would be open to employees who are at least 62 years old and have put in at least 5 years of service; employees with at least 30 years of service; and employees whose age and years of service totals 87 or more. The proposal would pay employees who have worked at least 5 years and less than 15 years a bonus of $750 for every year worked. Employees who have 15 or more years would receive $1,000 for every year worked. Continue Reading →

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In victory speech, Beth Pearce celebrates defeat over super PAC-backed foe

In one of the more boisterous victory speeches tonight, incumbent Democratic Treasurer Beth Pearce celebrated a win in one of the most closely watched races of the 2012 campaign. Pearce a short time ago received a call from Republican challenger Wendy Wilton conceding the race. Pearce, a former seven-year deputy treasurer appointed to the post when Jeb Spaulding resigned to join the Shumlin administration, thanks her “Vermont family” for delivering her a victory Tuesday. The race was viewed in some circles as a referendum on super PACs. The conservative super PAC Vermonters First poured about $800,000 in the 2012 elections, much of it on behalf of Wilton. Continue Reading →

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Democrats reach out to 143,000 voters in four days, say ground game will be difference

A ferocious ground game over the past four days has the chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party feeling confident this evening about his party’s prospects in the two lone races over which Democrats had been sweating. Volunteers have given up more than 3,000 hours of their time since Friday to make calls on behalf of incumbent treasurer Beth Pearce and candidate for auditor Doug Hoffer. Perkins says volunteers and VDP staff made 13,000call attempts to voters during that time period, bringing the total for the cycle to a pretty astounding 450,000. “And that doesn’t include any robo-calls,” VDP communications director Ari Wengroff says. Perkinson said polling data from earlier in the cycle is “pretty stale” at this point, but that he expects the field organziation and aggressive campaigning from Pearce to have increased the small lead she held over Republican Wendy Wilton when the survey was conducted. Continue Reading →

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In Facebook post, Don Schramm hopes for Beth Pearce victory

At least one major-party candidate for statewide office, it would appear, is hoping to lose next Tuesday. In an Oct. 28 post on his Facebook page, Progressive candidate for treasurer Don Schramm notes that “many of my friends like Beth Pearce.” Schramm apparently feels the same way. “I like her too and hope that she stays our State Treasurer,” Schramm writes. Continue Reading →

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Pro-single-payer group sprouts a PAC, begins pushing statewide and local candidates

The well-funded pro-single-payer group called “Vermont Leads” has launched its own political action committee. Funded entirely by an out-of-state union, Vermont Leads earlier this summer aired a six-figure ad blitz urging voters to support single-payer. More recently, the group won headlines for picketing outside the Burlington home of Lenore Broughton, who has poured at least $680,000 of her own money into getting Republicans elected next Tuesday. With Nov. 6 fast approaching, Vermont Leads has turned its focus from issue advocacy to electioneering, launching a PAC that is separate from the tax-exempt nonprofit that aired the TV ads. Continue Reading →

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