by Robert Maynard
Once again several media outlets are off on a wild goose chase when it comes to a critical issue in Vermont’s current election cycle. The latest such foray into the irrelevant is the media focus one whether State Treasurer Beth Pearce actually owns a home in Massachusetts, or whether her lack of home ownership here in Vermont is the focus of Wendy Wilton’s questioning of her fitness for the position of State Treasurer. Although Wilton did include the fact that Pearce owns no home in Vermont in raising questions about Pearce’s commitment to Vermont, the real issue is one of accountability to Vermonters.
A recent Seven days article is the latest to focus in on the side issue of whether Beth Pearce owns a home in Massachusetts:
The drama began Tuesday night during WCAX-TV’s 6 p.m. newscast. In a side-by-side profile piece of the two candidates, WCAX’s Keith McGilvery reported that Pearce rents a home in Barre and owns a home in Massachusetts, which is not true. Asked by McGilvery whether she planned to buy a home in Vermont, Pearce said in the piece, “That is a personal choice. We’re trying to think things through, but bottom line is Vermont is my home.”
The article also engaged in speculation over whether the source of the accusation came from the Wilton campaign, which is denied by Wendy. The article does touch briefly on the real issue at stake here: “Wilton’s campaign took the dig a step further in a follow-up email to Seven Days, appearing to question the incumbent treasurer’s commitment to the state. Pearce moved to Vermont from Massachusetts a decade ago to take a job as deputy state treasurer and was appointed to the top job in January 2011.”
The question that should be raised here is “Who is Beth Pearce accountable to?” Pearce was not elected to her current position by the voters of Vermont, but appointed to it. That raises the question of whether she is more accountable to the current administration, or to the voters of Vermont. This is not a trivial question, but is possibly related to how serious she portrays our current fiscal situation in general and the question of the funding of pension accounts for state employees in particular. Back in June I reported on a fiscal presentation by David Coates in a TNR article entitled “Funding shortfall represents the single greatest risk to the financial integrity of the system“. In his presentation Mr. Coates painted a picture of Beth Pearce as concerned about the problem and quoted a statement made by her in November of 2011: “This funding shortfall represents the single greatest risk to the financial integrity of the system.”
In the current campaign, she seems to be singing a different tune. This was noted in a recent Commentary I posted in TNR. That commentary quoted a Free Press article that ‘spells out the contrast in how Democratic incumbent Beth Pearce sees the situation versus how her Republic challenger Wendy Wilton does. While Wendy Wilton was raising issues of concern over our state’s long term financial situation, Beth Peace seemed to be singing her own version of “Don’t worry, be happy”.’
Pearce contends she and her predecessor have worked on the problem since 2005. Reforms have been enacted that change, for example, when workers can retire and how much they pay toward their retirement.
The Center for State and Local Government Excellence published a case study detailing how Vermont negotiated with teachers to make changes that saved $15 million in the first year, Pearce noted.
The question that the media should be raising is whether Beth Pearce is offering an honest assessment of the problem, or is she carrying water for the present administration. In his presentation, David Coates clearly did not think that the matter was under control and gave the impression that Beth Pearce did not think so either.