At least two Republican legislators have proposed abolishing the elected position of treasurer, but both candidates for the job say it serves useful purposes and should be preserved. (Getty Images)
Republican state Rep. Steven Doan of Erlanger plans to vote along party lines in Kentucky’s race for state treasurer on Nov. 7 but his preference would be to vote to abolish the entire constitutional office. Date of birth: Jan. 25, 1983 City of residence: Louisville Occupation and previous public service: Took sabbatical to run race about 10 months ago from being special assistant to lieutenant governor and secretary of education; former bank official and legislative assistant at Louisville’s Metro Council. Campaign website: bowmanforkentucky.com Quote: “I’m running for treasurer because it’s time we had a state treasurer who doesn’t just rubber stamp bad policy, but instead focuses on accountability and transparency. I know that with the right kind of leaders, our best days are ahead of us.”
Date of birth: Jan. 25, 1983
City of residence: Louisville
Occupation and previous public service: Took sabbatical to run race about 10 months ago from being special assistant to lieutenant governor and secretary of education; former bank official and legislative assistant at Louisville’s Metro Council.
Campaign website: bowmanforkentucky.com
Quote: “I’m running for treasurer because it’s time we had a state treasurer who doesn’t just rubber stamp bad policy, but instead focuses on accountability and transparency. I know that with the right kind of leaders, our best days are ahead of us.”
“It’s a duplication of the state Finance and Administration Cabinet, a waste of money” said Doan, an attorney in his first two-year term as a legislator.
Doan filed a bill in this year’s General Assembly to abolish the office, which has an annual $6.6 million operating budget, but the measure got nowhere. Similar legislation was filed before by Senate budget chairman Chris McDaniel of Ryland Heights in Kenton County. Even some candidates who have sought the office in past years have pledged to get rid of it with no success.
Doan said his desire is no reflection on anyone who has held the office or is hoping to hold it. He is not sure if he is going to try to bring back his bill in next year’s state legislative session.
“I’m gladly voting for (Republican) Mark Metcalf this fall. In fact, he was the only one in the Republican primary last spring who contacted me about my bill though he disagrees with me.”
The office and its future
Both Metcalf and his Democratic rival, Michael Bowman, say they want to keep the office and improve it. The job pays $148,108.56 a year. Current treasurer Allison Ball could not seek reelection because of term limits but she is running this fall for auditor against Democrat Kim Reeder.
Metcalf has been Garrard County attorney for 22 years. If he wins the treasurer’s race the county judge-executive would appoint a replacement to serve until an election next year.
Bowman was unsuccessful against Republican Allison Ball in the 2019 state treasurer’s race, garnering about 40 percent of the vote. He is a former bank official and special assistant to the lieutenant governor and secretary of education.
According to the latest campaign finance reports filed with the Registry of Election Finance, Metcalf has raised about $75,000 for the race and spent about $32,000. Bowman has raised about $110,000 and spent about $79,000.
The treasurer is the state’s chief elected fiscal officer. The office’s duties include handling the state’s revenue deposits and unclaimed property fund and making records of all monies due and payable to the state. It also processes warrants from the Finance and Administration Cabinet, makes payments on behalf of the state and makes an annual report of the state treasury.
Date of birth: Sept. 9, 1958 City of residence: Lancaster Occupation and previous public service: Garrard County Attorney for 22 years. Campaign website: metcalffortreasurer.com Quote: “As treasurer, I will protect tax dollars from the greedy hands of career politicians, divest state resources from woke businesses, crack down on illegals siphoning tax dollars away from lawful Kentuckians and return money to the hardworking taxpayers of Kentucky.”
Date of birth: Sept. 9, 1958
City of residence: Lancaster
Occupation and previous public service: Garrard County Attorney for 22 years.
Campaign website: metcalffortreasurer.com
Quote: “As treasurer, I will protect tax dollars from the greedy hands of career politicians, divest state resources from woke businesses, crack down on illegals siphoning tax dollars away from lawful Kentuckians and return money to the hardworking taxpayers of Kentucky.”
In this year’s lawmaking session, legislators made another attempt with House Bill 329 to give the treasurer more power over state contracts.
The bill, as others in the past that were struck down by courts, would allow for the treasurer, instead of the governor-appointed finance secretary, to be the final arbiter of contracts flagged by the legislature’s Government Contract Review Committee.
Gov. Andy Beshear opposes the legislation, saying it violates the constitution because it “elevates the Treasurer over the Governor” and that the treasurer is not constitutionally bound to take care that laws are faithfully executed. The bill currently is in the courts system.
Metcalf and Bowman claim the office has sufficient duties to be important to taxpayers. Nothing should be done to abolish it, they say.
Bowman said the office gives taxpayers more accountability over their money. “And we don’t want this office to be wrapped up in the bureaucracy of the governor or legislature.”
He noted that up until 1851, the governor appointed the treasurer with approval from the state legislature. The 1850 Constitution made the treasurer an elected office serving a two-year term. This was extended to four years in 1891 after Treasurer James William “Honest Dick” Tate absconded with nearly a quarter of a million dollars from the state treasury in 1888. He was never found.
Metcalf said he would not advocate getting rid of the treasurer’s office.
“Overseeing the treasury should be an independent person, one elected by the people,” he said.
More accessibility and transparency
Bowman said he could provide more accessibility and transparency to the office because he would be the first state treasurer in 40 years to have financial experience.
He said Ball had done a creditable job in establishing a website to trace state dollars but even more data could be made available.
Metcalf said he has managed an office budget for all the years he has been county attorney.
As treasurer, Metcalf said he wants to show taxpayers more information about the state’s debt.
“I believe it’s immoral to keep putting more debt on our children and grandchildren,” he said. “I would provide information to make the people more aware of this.”
Both candidates said they would strive to improve Kentuckians’ financial literacy.
“I want to make sure our students learn the skills of how to be financially secure, to make sure they know how to balance a checkbook, take out a mortgage, understand investments,” said Bowman.
Metcalf said he would work closely with the state Department of Education to make sure financial literacy education is uniform throughout the state.
Taxes and other revenue for the state
The candidates split along party lines on the Republican-controlled legislature’s plan for phasing out the state income tax.
Bowman said it could result in loss of funds for the state treasury and cause the need to raise more taxes. Metcalf said it appears to be a good proposal.
Neither candidate for state treasurer is seeking any tax increase.
Bowman and Metcalf both favored medical marijuana, saying it should generate more money for the state but Metcalf disagreed with Bowman on recreational marijuana in the state. “I’m against it,” said Metcalf.
Metcalf takes a hard line against investing by state pension plans in funds that follow ESG (environmental, social and governmental) considerations in making decisions. He said he would oppose any taxpayer investments in funds that oppose the use of coal.
Bowman believes too many Republicans paint all ESG investments “as bad, being similar to ‘woke.’
“There are good and bad. You have to review each one carefully and decide if it is a good investment for the state.”
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