PROVIDENCE, R. I. — It's been a busy first nine months as Rhode Island's new general treasurer for Seth Magaziner, who cited a $175 million debt restructuring for infrastructure projects and a green-themed Infrastructure Bank as progress for the state.
"We can't operate at the normal speed of governing," Magaziner, 32, said in an interview at the state capitol.
Magaziner, a Democrat who defeated independent and former state auditor general Ernest Almonte last November, succeeded Gina Raimondo after the latter became governor.
Magaziner — a Raimondo protégé going back to their days together at Point Judith Capital, a venture capital firm Raimondo founded — has collaborated with the governor on debt refinancing strategies and the settlement of the lawsuit that challenged Rhode Island's landmark 2011 law that overhauled the pension system for state employees. State officials say Rhode Island stands to save 92% of its projected $4 billion in savings over 20 years.
"We've had several big wins so far. We have a positive story to tell about our economy, the pension litigation settlement and the repayment of 38 Studios bonds," said Magaziner.
Rhode Island has been paying debt related to its moral-obligation guarantee for a $75 million loan for video-game company 38 Studios, owned by former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.
Tens of thousands of public documents related to the bond-financing fiasco are due for release, probably next week. State Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein on Tuesday denied a confidentiality request by defendant Wells Fargo Securities LLC. Silverstein is scheduled to hear similar requests on Friday.
Raimondo and Magaziner teamed up to establish the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank. The agency, rebranded from the triple-A rated, quasi-public Rhode Island Clean Water Finance Agency, will be the central hub for green infrastructure financing initiatives. It looks to expand eligibility for stormwater remediation lending to private entities and establish a revolving loan fund for brownfields redevelopment.
Both say bond rating agencies should consider an upgrade for the state. Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's rate Rhode Island's general obligation bonds AA. Moody's Investors Service rates them Aa2.
Magaziner said the new agency will help Rhode Island's environmental, or green bonds push. He and his staff have been studying neighboring Connecticut's issuance of the environmental-oriented securities.
"The folks there have done some good work as well as other states, including California," he said.
Since its creation in 2011, Connecticut's green bank has attracted private investment and creating nearly 1,200 jobs, said Magaziner. During the first year of its commercial property assessed clean energy program, Connecticut approved 26 such projects, representing $20 million in loans.
"If Connecticut can do this successfully, so can Rhode Island," said Magaziner, whose father, Ira, was a senior advisor to President Clinton.
In addition, Magaziner's office executed a $175 million debt restructuring for economic development and school reconstruction - part of the $8.6 billion budget that Raimondo signed in late June. The July 21 refunding will maximize debt savings over two years, he said, yielding $64 million in savings in fiscal 2016 and a further $36 million in 2017.
In May, Magaziner unveiled a statewide transparency initiative, including new rules for Rhode Island's $8 billion pension system and a policy that the state will only invest in funds that allow publication of their performance, fees, expenses and liquidity.
His transparency push includes a new investment information center and data portal on the state Treasury website, publication of a request-for-proposals calendar and the appointment of a chief transparency officer, Kerri Baker.
The revised website includes sections for serious investors as well as "people who aren't day traders," he said.
As an outgrowth of the transparency push, Magaziner led a nationwide call for the Securities and Exchange Commission to require private equity firms to reveal more about fees and expenses related to their management of public pension plans.
"We believe it's the first of its kind in the country," said Magaziner. Co-signing Magaziner's letter to SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White were several leading public finance officials who manage a combined $1 trillion in assets.
They include Thomas DiNapoli and Scott Stringer, the respective comptrollers of New York State and New York City, and California Treasurer John Chiang.