Lt. Governor Candidate Don Turner Responds to Moody’s Downgrade; Calls on Lt. Governor Zuckerman to Withdraw Support for Divestment
Milton, VT--Today, candidate for Lieutenant Governor Don Turner issued the following statement in response to Vermont’s bond rating downgrade issued by Moody’s Investor Service:
“Vermont has enjoyed a longstanding triple A rating from Moody’s, thanks in large part to our strong financial management at the state level. However, it is clear that our demographic crisis and increases in our unfunded liabilities have led to severe budgetary and financial challenges.
“Over the last decade, the Legislature has committed to fully funding our annual contributions to the pension fund. The ballooning payment schedule led to an investment of around $100 million in the FY19 budget to pay down liabilities, which I fully support.
“However, this downgrade clearly illustrates that we cannot afford to take any risks with our unfunded liabilities. We owe it to our taxpayers, state employees, teachers, and retirees to get this right.
“That’s why risky investment decisions--such as divesting the state pension--are options that Vermonters simply cannot afford. State Treasurer Beth Pearce has been clear that divestment is not the solution to address our reliance on fossil fuels. And the non-partisan Legislative Joint Fiscal Office (JFO), along with consultants advising the Vermont Pension Investment Committee (VPIC), have indicated that divestment would cost not only $1.9 million in upfront costs, but also ongoing annual costs of more than $8 million due to decreased investment returns.
“In light of this data and this most recent development, I’m disappointed that in a debate on Monday, my opponent reiterated his support for divesting the State’s pension. This position is irresponsible to the taxpayers who would bear the cost of decreased returns, as well as state employees, teachers, and retirees who are counting on us to protect the promises we made to them.
“I fully support examining ways to assert our energy independence and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels--such as investments in energy efficiency. But it is irresponsible, unaffordable, and unacceptable to risk our financial well-being by divesting the State’s pension funds.
“In response to the Moody’s downgrade, I call on Lieutenant Governor Zuckerman to retract his support for divestment. I look forward to working with Governor Scott and Treasurer Pearce on this important issue."