Gov. Shumlin, lawmakers again pressure state pension fund managers to divest


Progressive legislators Rep. Chris Pearson (far left) and Sen. Anthony Pollina (far right) were instrumental in getting statements of support for divestment passed in both the House and Senate.

By Stewart Ledbetter, WPTZ Channel 5.

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MONTPELIER, Vt. —Gov. Peter Shumlin is again pressing members of the Vermont Pension Investment Committee to dump all holdings in coal and Exxon Mobil stocks.


He said it’s important to join states like California and make a strong statement against climate change. He also argues that given poor performance lately, continuing to hold either investment is doing fund beneficiaries no favors.


A subcommittee of VPIC meets Friday to consider the issue in light of a House-passed resolution urging divestment, and a new letter signed by about half of the state Senate calling for a formal review.


“I’m pleased both the House and Senate action calls upon VPIC to get back to us by May 2, on how we divest from coal and Exxon, whether we do or not, yes or no, and how we get there if it’s a yes,” the governor said at a news conference at the Statehouse Thursday.


VPIC has repeatedly voted against divestment as costly to the fund’s performance.


But this time, Shumlin is asking the subcommittee to allow at least one outside member to its deliberations who is open to divestment.


State Treasurer Beth Pearce, who heads VPIC, issued a statement late Thursday critical of the governor.


“There are substantive errors in the Governor’s press statements today,” Pearce said. “I find it unfortunate that we received a letter from the Governor that outlines a deadline and a conclusion before any discussion of the scope of the analysis has taken place.”


Pearce said she “appreciates the governor’s passion” on divestment, she believes investment decisions are best left to investment professionals, not politicians. She said the 50,000 Vermont retirees who rely on the fund’s performance are her principal concern.


Nor is Pearce committing to any decisions by May 2.

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