Douglas: Citizen Bonds Revisited

Print More

Former Vermont Governor and commentator Jim Douglas has been thinking
about Vermont’s response to Tropical Storm Irene. And he has a
suggestion for one more possible way to help the recovery.

I was chatting recently with my friend, Cindy Hill, a local attorney,
professor and accomplished musician, who had a great idea. We were
discussing the tremendous response by Vermonters to the damaging storm
this year that destroyed homes, roads and bridges, disrupting so many
businesses and lives. Many of us have written checks, delivered unneeded
clothes and other items to charities and gotten our hands dirty helping
friends and neighbors clean up.

there remains a yearning to do more. I vividly recall Vermont’s
response to Hurricane Katrina that devastated the Gulf Coast 6 years
ago. In just days we collected 4 million pounds of donated goods and
shipped them by truck convoy to Mississippi. That state’s governor
singled out Vermont’s generosity in his speech to the legislature a
short time later. If Vermonters cared so much about folks whom they
didn’t even know and who lived so far away, it shouldn’t be a surprise
that we would want to do more when a tropical storm hit here.

in normal times, it’s nice to be able to do something to help our
state. When I began my duties as state treasurer in the mid-90s, I
launched a program called ‘Citizen Bonds’ through which Vermont
residents could invest in infrastructure projects around the state:
schools, water and sewer systems, roads and bridges. Almost every year
the state borrows tens of millions of dollars to improve our physical
structures as authorized by the legislature to fund the capital budget.
Usually state bonds are bought by large institutions and mutual funds,
but Citizen Bonds are sold in smaller denominations so average investors
can afford them. I used to tout them as great stocking stuffers!

recent storm caused damage that will stretch our financial resources.
It’s encouraging that earlier cost estimates were inflated, but it’ll
still be expensive. Why not issue small denomination ‘Storm Bonds?’ It
would give Vermonters a way to be involved in repairing vital
infrastructure and acquire a safe investment at the same time. I know
that the cost of issuing bonds can be high when the face value is small,
but I’ll bet some underwriters would be willing to offer a little
flexibility under the circumstances. It would be important to have them
available at, say $100, instead of at the usual minimum of $5000.

been successful in recent years in ratcheting down our long-term debt
and enhancing the state’s credit ratings. I’m not suggesting that we
borrow beyond a reasonable level, but it would be good to give
Vermonters a chance at a competitive investment and to use our resources
in yet another way to help rebuild our state. It’s been a tough year,
but our resiliency is impressive. I hope Vermonters will continue to
remember those who have suffered from the storm and are still struggling
to rebuild their lives long after the wave of publicity has subsided. A
small denomination bond program is one way to keep that connection

Comments are closed.