Before any General Officer addressed the chaotic sign-up for the COVID-19 vaccine, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner was advocating for a centralized registration process and coordination. Two weeks thereafter, the State moved in that direction.
When he was elected as General Treasurer post Gina Raimondo, he systematically began an exit out of risky and non-productive hedge funds through his “back to basics” investment strategy. He coupled the exodus with a “crisis protection allocation” which would rise, as it did, when in March, April 2020 the stock market took a dive, yet this $1 billion allocation rose by 15 percent. With the fiscal year which ended in 2020, his management of the state pension fund beat 87 percent of his peers in total returns.
Keeping an eye on the economy of Rhode Island and helping to promote it are two tasks which he takes very seriously. General Treasurer Magaziner recently came out in full support of the passage of all the bond issues on the ballot for the March 2 election. I was curious as to why he threw his weight behind each of them since in the past he’s been not as aggressive in supporting every bond issue request. During my interview with him he sounded like President Joe Biden when he argued that in a pandemic crisis you have to go big and bold. Citing statistics that Rhode Island has lost more than 100,000 jobs during the crisis and only gained about half of them back, he noted that the thousands of construction jobs and permanent jobs occasioned by the allocation of these funds would help with the unemployment problem. He noted that the interest rates on bond are low and very favorable. Rhode Island’s quality of life would also be amplified whether it was through educational improvement, environmental improvements, etc.
The term-limited General Treasurer sounded and has acted as a leader so I asked him about his gubernatorial aspirations. He responded that he hadn’t given much thought to the race since he is trying to address the challenges at the moment occasioned by the pandemic and wants to do all in his power to assist in the re-establishment of Rhode Island’s economy. He had no deadline as to when he would decide.
Treasurer Magaziner, nonetheless, is matching the small business focus of Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee. Mr. Magaziner has initiated an unclaimed property initiative for small businesses. His program is designed to send money to viable small businesses who may not know they have unclaimed assets by cross-checking the companies with the Division of Taxation. So far, the checks have averaged $600 although some small businesses were reunited with thousands of dollars. This is a valuable initiative during this time since every bit of cash helps struggling owners. His goal is to reunite 1000 small businesses with this “found” money by the end of March. His office will commence a public relations campaign shortly which would also motivate businesses to check the state listings.
His eventual entrance into any Governor’s race would make for a heck of a contest. Right now, however, he is trying to maximize the ways that the General Treasurer could move Rhode Island ahead during these troubled times. His efforts are paying dividends.
Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.