PROVIDENCE, R.I- With Providence, R.I facing a large budget deficit, State Treasurer Seth Magaziner said he is prepared to assist Rhode Island's largest city in an advisory capacity if needed.
Magaziner told The Bond Buyer in an interview from his office in Rhode Island's state capital that he is in touch on a regular basis with Mayor Jorge O. Elorza about how the city is tackling its financial challenges. An Oct. 20 letter from Rhode Island Auditor General Dennis E. Hoyle to the new Providence mayor first obtained by WPRI said the capital city's current estimated general fund operating gap for fiscal 2015 is $5 million and urged an updated deficit reduction plan.
"I have offered our assistance and let them know that we're ready, able and willing to help them out, however would be useful to them," said Magaziner, who assumed the treasurer post in January after his predecessor Gina Raimondo became governor. "The state has limited ability to unilaterally dictate policy for the city, but we can certainly bring resources in terms of expertise and research."
Magaziner emphasized that a financially strong capital Providence is very important for the state's overall economic health. With a population of 177,994 in the 2010 Census, Providence comprises nearly one-fifth of Rhode Island's population of just over one million.
"Providence is the primary economic driver for the state," said Magaziner. "There is no question that the city has to succeed financially and economically."
Magaziner stands ready to assist his state's most populous city in midst of making his mark on a national level since taking office. He helped establish the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank for green financing initiatives following in the footsteps of Connecticut and New York with other states now also pursuing this path of addressing renewable energy projects. He also pushed Rhode Island into becoming the first state requiring money managers with public investments publicly disclose information about performance fees and expenses.
"We were really going into uncharted territory and nobody that I'm aware of in the public pension space had a policy this strong in place before," said Magaziner, who crafted a resolution that was unanimously passed on Oct. 20 by the National Association of State Treasurers calling for more transparency from private equity firms with pension investments. "We succeeded not only improving financial transparency here in Rhode Island, but also promoting a national conversation."