Maine treasurer reports highest cash pool earnings in 8 years

Good morning from Augusta, where the state treasurer is touting what she says is more good financial news for the state.

It’s about the management of the state’s cash pool. Maine State Treasurer Terry Hayes — the same Terry Hayes who is running for governor as an independent — said Monday that prudent fiscal practices by herself and the administration of Gov. Paul LePage have led to investment returns on the state’s cash pool that are at an 8-year high. Cash pool earnings reached 1.24 percent in October and $3.37 million during the first quarter of fiscal year 2018, which began in July 2017.

The cash pool is sort of hard to define. It consists of the state’s financial resources, including savings accounts, money market accounts, federal agency securities, U.S. Treasury notes, corporate bonds and commercial paper. It is valued at around $1.2 billion. In February of this year, Hayes said the cash pool’s value had exceeded $1 billion for the first time in the state’s history. The announcement was tempered by the fact that some of the positive performance was due to the improving economy and the fact that Maine’s state budget is growing.

Let’s not confuse this with the state’s “checking account” or rainy day fund. The cash pool is held by a number of state agencies and the university system and it exists basically only on paper. It’s separate from the Budget Stabilization Fund, otherwise known as the rainy day fund, which has been at the center of debate and controversy for years. The current balance in the rainy day fund, which was nearly zeroed out during the 2009 financial crisis, is around $196 million.

More investment returns means less liability on taxpayers. As Hayes said in a written statement, “every dollar earned is a dollar that does not need to be paid for by Mainers.” None of us would scoff at $3.4 million, but let’s put this in perspective: That equals less than 0.05 percent of the two-year state budget of around $7.1 billion.

Reading list

  • Susan Collins has joined the chorus of Republicans calling for an embattled Alabama U.S. Senate candidate to stop his campaign. After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, called for Roy Moore to step down because of allegations of sexual misconduct on Monday, Collins followed suit. The Republican senator from Maine said she “did not find his denials to be convincing and that “he should withdraw.”
  • Maine has bailed out of many education reforms and some educators say it has hurt classrooms. Matt Stone of the BDN’s Maine Focus team has this historical piece on education initiatives that the state has totally or partially abandoned over the last 30 years, including school consolidation and the Smarter Balanced assessment. A Waterville math teacher said she has “never seen an initiative actually survive and keep going.”
  • Jeff Sessions is mulling an investigation into Hillary Clinton. The U.S. attorney general has appointed investigators to explore alleged wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation and a controversial uranium sale to Russia and report back to him, The Washington Post reports. The activity, disclosed in a letter to a House Judiciary Committee member, could lead to the appointment of a special counsel to conduct a deeper probe.
  • The state is offering free credit monitoring for Maine foster families whose personal data was compromised. The data, including names, birthdays and Social Security numbers, was put on a website outside state government by a private contractor in September but was taken down less than five hours later. Up to 2,100 people’s data was involved.
  • Another woman says George H.W. Bush groped her. The woman, Roslyn Corrigan, told Time magazine that Bush grabbed her buttocks during a photo shoot in 2003 when she was 16 years old. Corrigan is at least the fifth woman to make a similar claim against Bush.
  • A public school employee in Augusta has settled her lawsuit over expression of faith in school. Toni Richardson says she was told by school employees not to tell people on school property that she will pray for them or that they are in her prayers. The school has since acknowledged the First Amendment rights of all school employees “to express religious beliefs or use faith-based language at school.

Auburn hair in Lewiston?

As you know, we’re longtime Craigslist connoisseurs here at the Daily Brief. That site’s “Missed Connections” section is the pinnacle of male overthought.

One entry there inadvertently crossed over with current political events. A man who recently visited a Cumberland Farms store in Lewiston said a “B E A U T I F U L” woman with auburn hair gave him “a slight smile” at the register. He now wants to chat with her.

In other news, the Lewiston-Auburn merger was crushed in last week’s election. So while you can still see auburn hair in Lewiston, you won’t see Lewiston hair in Auburn. Maybe that joke doesn’t work. Anyway, here’s your soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading it on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.