W. Lane Startin makes his case for Idaho State Treasurer post

May 16, 2014 

Idaho needs a change in the state treasurer's office. Given Ron Crane's investments in securities lending agreements, which cost the state at least $10 million, and questionable use of taxpayer funds on limousines and gas cards, it's not hard to see why. Even though the Legislature wisely saw to it that the state treasurer can't make such investment mistakes again with the passage of SB 1350 late this past session, it's clear lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have lost faith in Ron Crane's ability.

So imagine my shock when I saw him nearly run unopposed for a fifth term. Fortunately I and another Democrat filed to run on the last day, giving Idaho Democrats their first competitive statewide primary in quite some time. I'm confident whoever wins on May 20th will return sense and order to an office that's clearly lost its way.

Specifically with my experience in the insurance and credit card fields, I got into this race not just to right the well-documented wrongs in the state treasurer's office, but also to make Idaho a better place for all. It's not enough to simply say one wants to bring responsible stewardship back to the state treasurer's office. In light of what we've seen from the incumbent in recent months, that's a no-brainer. This election is not just an opportunity to address obvious shortcomings, but also to make state government work harder for all of us.

A strong Idaho is an educated Idaho. Every elected office has the potential to make education policy work. State treasurer is no different. Similar to a proposal recently made in Oregon, I would like to establish a new state fund providing grants and loans to Idaho residents who attend in-state collegiate and vocational programs. After the initial seeding, actual awards would come from the fund's investment returns. The Oregon proposal seeks to create its fund with an initial $100 million seeding. I think we could accomplish this in Idaho with half that, perhaps even less.

For example, a two-percent return on a $50 million would yield $1 million annually, which in turn could fund up to 2,000 grants and loans annually averaging $500 each. That may not sound like much given college expenses today, but it's $500 more per student than is available now. As the fund matures and grows stronger, it would be able to provide more help to more people.

What's more, I believe it's possible to create this fund with minimal financial impact. Taking into consideration the various reserves, emergency funds and “stabilization funds,” there's nearly $261 million sitting idle in the Idaho treasury right now, or approximately 9 percent of the entire state treasury just sitting there. While these reserves are necessary, I don't think they're necessary to the tune of $261 million.

I don't mean to suggest implementing this plan will be easy, or for that matter particularly quick. It will require bipartisan legislative action and – perhaps more importantly – a different way of thinking in state government overall. There are other matters which also need attention as well, fully funding education at the K-12 level being paramount among them. Yet a new way of thinking is what we need if we want to climb out of the hole we're in now. Idaho deserves change. Idaho deserves better. That's why I'm running.

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