Pearce endorsed by key money committee chiefs

Beth Pearce announces endorsements Thursday in the Statehouse, flanked by the four endorsing committee chairs of the legislative “money” committees, which include both Appropriations committees, as well as the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees. From left, Sens. Ann Cummings and Jane Kitchel, Pearce, Reps. Martha Heath and Janet Ancel. VTD Photo/Nat Rudarakanchana

In what’s become the downticket race to watch this season, state Treasurer Beth Pearce received strong endorsements from four key money committee legislators on Thursday, but mostly overlooked her opponent’s recent political offensive.

At a Statehouse press conference, Pearce and four committee chairs lauded Pearce’s efforts to maintain Vermont’s healthy bond rating, implement pension reform, and keep the treasurer’s office professional and apolitical.

But asked about Wendy Wilton’s request for an audit on overtime and management related to retirement systems, Pearce responded, “I think this is politics, election politics, at its worst.”

Pearce defended herself by reiterating that she’d been “managing appropriately,” adding that she hadn’t exceeded her office’s budget for the past two years.

Pearce didn’t venture into more detail about Wilton’s criticisms about overtime expenses, saying, “We need to move on from this overtime thing. We’ve addressed it several times. … I want to run on the issues, and I think voters ultimately will respect that.”

Wilton campaign manager Bradford Broyles dismissed the endorsements as partisan party politics from the Democratic legislators, adding that Wilton did not see it as a major loss. He characterized the endorsements as an attempt by Pearce to distract from the allegations about overtime and mismanagement, repeatedly emphasizing supposed whistleblowers emerging to criticize Pearce.

But, Broyles added, if elected, Wilton would work well with Democrats. “Just because you’re from a different political party doesn’t mean you can’t talk to each other,” he said. Even with the prospect of a Democratic governor backing single-payer health care, said Broyles, “She understands what she’s walking into.”

Meanwhile, Deputy State Auditor Joe Juhasz said that his office requested information from the treasurer yesterday, for a preliminary review in light of Wilton’s complaint. Juhasz judged it too early to tell whether Wilton’s complaint was merely political or actually substantive, noting that such complaints were not unusual in state government.

After the conference, Pearce’s communications director, Dylan Giambatista, denied that the key endorsements, arriving with less than three weeks until Election Day, came as a strategic response to Wilton’s aggressive politics as of late.

Earlier this week, Wilton ran an ad citing research group USPIRG’s “D minus” rating of Vermont for fiscal transparency, though the ad didn’t clarify that the report actually referred to the Department of Finance and Management’s website, not the state treasurer.

Giambatista said only, “There have been some political theatrics recently. Beth is about professionalism. … This is a show of it.”

Although the four endorsing legislators were all Democrats, Pearce said she enjoys a broad cross-section of support, referencing the variety of her campaign donors. She didn’t name any Republican lawmakers or politicians who supported her bid.

The four legislators who endorsed Pearce were Martha Heath, chair of House Appropriations; Janet Ancel, chair of House Ways and Means; Ann Cummings, chair of Senate Finance; and Jane Kitchel, chair of Senate Appropriations.

Throughout the press conference and afterwards, the legislators hinted but didn’t outright say that working with Wilton could prove difficult for them, suggesting that it’d at least be an uncertain prospect. Afterwards, Reps. Heath and Ancel said they wanted the office to remain non-political, professional, and competent, but couldn’t say whether they’d work well with Wilton, because they hadn’t worked with her previously and didn’t know much about her record or experience.

As for the closeness and importance of the race, Ancel suspected that Vermonters understood and cared about abstract issues like the state’s bond rating more than most expected. This year the treasurer’s race had become a race most Vermonters should pay attention to, said Ancel.

“I don’t know whether I’ve seen TV ads in the treasurer’s race before, for example,” she said. “So, you don’t want to just assume that it’s going to work out [for Pearce]…which is why we all made the trip here to do the endorsement.”

“We have ads on TV for Wendy Wilton, and ads paid for by outside parties,” said Heath. “That’s such an unusual situation. It just makes you wonder whether it’s closer than we feel it ought to be.”

Nat Rudarakanchana

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  • Bradford Broyles

    The debacle that is 9,000 plus hours of overtime signed off on by Ms. Pearce goes to her competency as the “professional” she claims. The questions aren’t complicated people and they are not going away. I’d encourage Ms. Pearce to answer the auditor’s inquiry by next week so Vermonters can have the answers they deserve. For a copy of the letter with the questions, email [email protected] and we’ll get it out to you.

    Also of note: The Wilton campaign has never questioned Ms. Pearce’s total office budget decreasing slightly. It’s a red herring for Pearce to keep the press and the public from asking the many serious questions about policies and procedure problems expressed from the 7 whistle blowers (VT & MA) who have contacted our campaign.

    One of the important questions:

    Now or in the past has Treasurer Pearce charged off overtime expenditures to any pension funds to improve her own payroll balance sheet? It’s a yes or no question, either the OT is being charged in whole or in part to the pension funds or it’s not.

    Another thing…

    Ms. Pearce stated yesterday repeatedly overtime expenditures have decreased on her watch. The Treasurer Office Payroll breakdown shows quite the opposite. Overtime went up 25% in fiscal year 2012. Again, pleased to send anyone the payroll breakdown of the Treasurer’s office for Fiscal years 2010, 2011, and 2012 to see for yourself.

    With three debates scheduled for next week, there should be adequate time to ask Ms. Pearce directly about information Vermonters are entitled to know.

    Transparency works, ask Wendy Wilton.

  • David OBrien

    Today’s press conference is a powerful visual of the one party rule that runs VT today. Our system of government is founded upon diversity of thought and competing ideas. Treasurer Wilton has always been about hard work, integrity and being accountable.

    As we approach this election we have significant fiscal clouds on the horizon. A significantly underfunded pension and a state single payer health care program ramping up that no one, including the current Treasurer or rhe four Chairwomen at todays presser, can provide the cost to Vermonters. Simply astounding. For Ms. Pearce to dismiss Wendy Wilton’s questions as election politics proves to me she doesn’t grasp the importance of her position, especially that it is supposed to be an independent, constitutional office.

    • Paula Schramm

      Re : ” the one party rule that runs VT today”
      It doesn’t occur to you that the people of this party were duly elected by the people of Vermont, who chose them and wanted them in office, exactly to do some of the things they are doing.
      It’s not as if it’s been some sort of totalitarian coup.

      I find this language offensive & belittling of Vermonters, especially as it is echoed in all the one-person glossy literature I and everyone else in my town has been getting mailed to them every other day, and in the expensive TV ads incessantly run on TV, paid for by one person’s money : essentially ” one-person rule.”

  • Jim Christiansen

    Wow! 4 incumbents endorse another incumbent of the same party. Film at eleven!

  • Stan Hopson

    Heath closes with “it’s closer then it ought to be”.

    What exactly does that mean? Should any opponent to the democrat machine “ought” to have any chance at all in your world Mrs. Heath? Wilton, obviously a very capable individual, treasurer of the year it says on TV from her peers desires transparency in state government, something Pearce seems to have a real problem with.

    By the way, last time I checked, candidates running for office are not allowed to have signs promoting them selves inside the statehouse. Pearce didn’t bother to check evidently or just blows it off like pension questions.

  • Wendy Love

    Anyone who was in or around the legislature when Wendy Wilton was a state senator knew that she did not work well with others regardless of their party affiliation. The State of Vermont does not need a politician who cannot work well with others as our Treasurer As a retiree from state government I want to know that the state pension funds are being managed by a prudent fiscally knowledgable professional which Beth Pearce is. As to transparency isue that Wendy keeps raising, all state departments have been required by the Shumlin administration to post their budgets on their websites since he took office. Ms Wilton should stop trying to get free media by raising these spurious stories. After all she has all the “free” media and mailings and robo calls paid for by her one woman PAC.

  • walter carpenter

    ” Our system of government is founded upon diversity of thought and competing ideas.”

    Would you say that if the republicans were in the majority in a virtual one-party rule like they were so many years.?

  • walter carpenter

    oops,, for so many years,

  • Bob Frenier

    I was kinda dismayed by this endorsement. Isn’t the treasurer supposed to review the spending plans these committee chairs propose and then publicize her opinion of what impact those plans will have on the state’s finances? These folks seem more in cahoots with each other than participating in the checks and balances that keep everything aboveboard. All these people belong to the same party, which might explain that.

  • Thomas Allen

    Beth Pearce is fast becoming the “King Canute” of Vermont politics. Like the Hawaiian monarch who believed that his power and authority was so absolute that he could command the waves to stop coming ashore on his island, Pearce and her allies apparently believe she can simply command inconvenient, lawful FOIA requests and State Auditor’s inquiries about the operations of the State Treasurer’s office to simply disappear. Good luck with that, your majesty.

    • Lee Madden

      Ouch! Biting criticism from a sharp mind. I wonder if Danish King Cnut the Great would be troubled that his attempted feat was moved from England to Hawaii?

  • Michael Keane

    Well, I’m glad to see that stories concerning Canute can in a stretch be applied to the Treasurer’s election campaign. However, let’s sit back and read the “real story” about Canute’s “ruling the waves.”

    After his oft-quoted remark, the tide continued to rise as usual and swept over his feet and legs in total disregard of his royal person. At that point, the king jumped backwards, saying: “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.”

    He then placed his gold crown on a crucifix and never wore it again. Most people stop the story at the “ruling of the waves” speech, so the incident is usually misrepresented by popular commentators and politicians as an example of Canute’s arrogance. So much for history and facts…

    Now the interesting part is not that he then became monarch of Hawaii but that when he got there, he opened up a Ukelele and Surfboard skunk works and became famous for surfing while plucking chords on the Uke. It is not known, however, whether he ever was a contestant in the Hawaiian National Ukelele Playoffs.

    OK, I lied about the Hawaii stuff. But it makes as much sense as the accusations floating around in the postings above.

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