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Kentucky Public Radio Voter Guide: State Treasurer

Man smiling with blue suit and grey background on left. Man smiling with arm resting on structure indoor environment on right.
Provided
Democratic candidate Michael Bowman on the left, Republican candidate Mark Metcalf on the right.

The treasurer acts as the state’s chief financial officer, ensuring tax dollars are spent legally.

In the past, lawmakers and some candidates for the office have questioned its purpose. In 2014 the state Senate even passed a bill to abolish the office, saying it has too few functions.

Outgoing GOP Treasurer Allison Ball is term-limited and running for state auditor. Republican Mark Metcalf is facing Democrat Michael Bowman in the race.

Man with dark suit with arm leaning on chair. American flag in background in office environment.
Provided
Mark Metcalf

Mark Metcalf

Republican

Age: 65

Residence: Lancaster

Occupation: Garrard County Attorney

Previous elected/government experience: Assistant Commonwealth’s attorney, federal prosecutor and special counsel for election reform under George W. Bush administration, U.S. Immigration Court judge in Miami, Fla.

Campaign website: https://metcalffortreasurer.com/

Metcalf was interviewed for this voter guide. Excerpts are included below.

Why do you want this job?

"I believe that the best way to manage Kentucky's money is to keep in mind a few guiding principles. We borrow too much, we spend too much and we save too little. And my purpose in running is to impose fiscal restraint where it is needed so that we protect Kentucky's taxpayers from runaway state budgets."

What would be your main priorities as treasurer?

"To save money. What we need to be doing is seeing what's working: making sure we don't have duplication in other areas of state government so that we pare down our expenditures, save taxpayers money, and also give money back to our rainy day fund.

"We need to take an inventory of what programs perform well, what programs don't perform well, and let the General Assembly make those choices regarding spending. In that respect, I would be making recommendations. I believe the most important thing I can do is be an honest broker of fact that comes to helping save money."

"Right now, we have to have one block of instruction on financial literacy in your senior year of high school. I want to expand that, using curriculum time that's already allotted for students, and start teaching those lessons in the seventh and eighth grade, so that by the time a student finishes high school, they have a basic understanding of how to set up a checking account, how to manage a checking account and savings accounts, understanding how money can be saved or best saved, how to purchase a home, understanding the basics of what their parents mastered and often is not taught at home in some communities."

In the past, some candidates for treasurer and other state lawmakers have advocated for completely eliminating the office. What’s your opinion on that?

"The way I see the office right now is if you're going to replace the treasurer's office, what are you going to put in place, that’s better than what we have now? The treasurer's office, at least in my thinking, has proven itself to be a valuable backstop to make certain that bills are paid to whom they're supposed to be paid, and there's no undue influence being exercised over the treasurer."

Why does the office of treasurer matter?

"You need an independent office paying the bills, if you don't have an office independent of the governor's office, and an office independent of the legislature, you would not have let's say put it this way and honest broker, paying the bills potentially would have undue influence affecting how what bills are paid how they're paid when they're paid."

Man in blue suit smiles at camera with gray background.
Provided
Michael Bowman

Michael Bowman

Democrat

Age: 40

Residence: Louisville

Occupation: Former assistant to Lt. Governor Coleman, bank officer.

Previous elected/government experience: Legislative assistant to Louisville Metro Council

Campaign website: https://www.bowmanforkentucky.com/

Bowman was interviewed for this voter guide. Excerpts are included below.

Why do you want this job?

"I would be the first treasurer in nearly 40 years elected that has any type of professional training or formal education and finance. So that alone tells you that, while we may have had some treasurers in the past that have done some good work, they weren't the ones that have the intimate knowledge that is required for managing money at a scale like this. And I think that's something I can bring to the table, which is why I stepped up. "

"I think also we've seen the division in Frankfort that would require partnerships rather than adversaries. We need to work on ensuring that we're working together for the best and in the best interests of the Commonwealth, and that we're not creating future problems because we refuse to work together."

What would be your main priorities as treasurer?

"The primary job is accountability and transparency, ensuring that the office is geared towards making that the top priority, and especially with regards to transparency. The people of Kentucky have a right to know where their tax dollars are going. We've certainly made some of that information available, but I think we can make improvements. I see opportunity for improvements where we can get that information out to people on a wide scale, get local and county governments involved in disseminating that information to the people in their communities."

"There's certainly a lot of room to improve the financial literacy program. We now make it a requirement before you can graduate high school that you complete a financial literacy course. But I think we need to go beyond that, we need to make this a K-12 endeavor where we're teaching children from the very beginning what it means to be financially secure, what it means to balance a checkbook, what credit means to them, the tools they would need to start a business in the future, if they so choose. So that once they do graduate, they're prepared."

"Then lastly is to, unlike our treasurers in the past, be an active partner with the governor on how we are looking at our revenues, how we’re looking to expand that, how we're building an economy around those things and making sure that we are making choices that lead to future success."

In the past, some candidates for Treasurer and other state lawmakers have advocated for completely eliminating the office. What’s your opinion on that?

"The treasurer is independently elected for a reason, and that is to prevent the bureaucracy of dealing with tax dollars from being wrapped up in either a governor or in a legislature and allows it to be directly held accountable to the people."

"There are a lot of people who think that the duties of the office can be wrapped up into a cabinet level position like the Finance Cabinet, but it takes away that elected accountability for your tax dollars. It allows a governor to appoint an individual who then oversees that, and I don't think that that would be the best way for the Commonwealth to go forward. I think in any situation, we want more accountability, not less, and we want it to be directly influenced by the people, rather than your governor or legislature."

In your view, why does the office of treasurer matter?

"We changed the constitution of Kentucky in the late 1800s to make it an elected position rather than appointment. And we did that for a very particular reason. And that was because there had been issues with a governor's appointee, failing to be accountable to those dollars and ensuring that we're being transparent about where that money's going. So that's part of the reason why I think it's important that it remains elected."

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