School funding - At the top of almost everyone's list
Did you know that Colorado ranks #49 in Federal spending per pupil? This amounts to our state leaders leaving $200 to $300 million on the table each year - money that we are eligible to receive, but are not receiving. We are not receiving this money because unlike other states that have a dedicated department to claiming Federal money for education, we do not. As Treasurer I will lead an effort for Colorado to receive the maximum amount of Federal money we are due for education.
We of course have to fix TABOR and Gallagher, but this will not be easy as both have been around for decades. There have been a number of good suggestions to fix TABOR, and I like a plan proposed by two Republicans Rep. Dan Thurlow and Sen. Larry Crowder to change the formula in TABOR to be based on personal income versus consumer prices. An article about this, can be found here: http://thetaborfoundation.org/crowder-thurlow-team-up-to-fix-tabor-constraint-on-overdrive/
Whatever modifications we make, we must study them carefully and perform a thorough analysis of how they will affect all aspects of our economy, government and all of the citizens of Colorado both short and long term before they are implemented. I have a background in economics and forecasting and I've done this type of analysis at many points in my career. TABOR and Gallagher were both crafted by people without any real training in economics, finance or tax policy and I believe that's one of the main reasons why they have created so many problems. It's time we brought more expertise to issues that are so critical to our state. I should mention that I do support Initiative #93 - Great Schools, Thriving Communities which will raise money for education through increased taxes on the wealthiest 10% of earners making over $150,000 per year.
One of the biggest cost drivers at the State level and for families is health care. Right now, most Colorado school districts purchase health care separately. While the Governor will need to drive much of our state's legislative policies, I plan to push for Colorado to pool the buying power of our 178 school districts so that they can purchase health insurance together and bring down health care costs for teachers. I think we also need to explore creating a State plan that bypasses insurance companies that are inefficient and so often do not offer coverage in rural counties. The State and school districts already pay health insurance premiums for over 55,000 teachers so this would not cost a penny extra. This is a complex issue, but I believe it is time we looked into other options as health care costs are straining the state's budget and family budgets.
I live with a teacher so I've seen firsthand how the lack of investment in our public schools affects both our kids and our teachers. My fiancé teaches High School chemistry at East High School in Denver. In addition to her classroom temperature hitting 90 degrees or higher in September, her disposable income has gone down because she hasn't gotten a raise in more than five years while her health care premiums have increased significantly. The teachers at her school raised money privately to pay for eyeglasses for students whose families could not afford them.
With so much prosperity in our beautiful state, I think we all know that we can do better.
Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) Needs to be solvent
PERA - Colorado's Public Employee Retirement Association is a pension program for state employees including teachers, judges, state troopers and state agencies. It has approximately 550,000 members and $47 billion in assets. The State Treasurer sits on the PERA Board.
The Joint Budget Committee and the Finance Committee in our State Legislature are charged with overseeing PERA. In addition, our State Treasurer has a seat on the PERA Board. Because of a lack of financial expertise and political courage in our Legislature, and a lack of involvement from our Stat Treasurer, PERA's unfunded liability - the amount it owes retirees versus what it is projected to bring in - has grown by 10 billion, from $22 billion to $32 billion in the last seven years alone.
This is relevant because it has already affected the State's bond rating adversely. If trends continue, our State's bond rating could be downgraded raising the cost of borrowing, potentially for years to come.
A few key points I want to mention:
- Above all, I promise to protect PERA and use my expertise in finance and background in business and economics to make sure it is managed well. I have two close family members who depend on it, and have a hard time believing that we cannot do better than we've done in recent years.
A recent news article uncovered that PERA is being charged more than $130 million per year by Wall St. firms for investments that do not perform as well as similar investments in neighboring states. Although charged with oversight, no one in our State Legislature has done anything about this. I have been investigating this on my own with the help of some activist retirees, and I will be issuing a Colorado Open Records Request (CORA) for access to the contracts that PERA has with Wall St. firms. If you'd like to learn more about what I call a hidden heist, a link to the story is here: http://www.westword.com/news/colorados-pera-pleads-poverty-to-retirees-while-enriching-wall-street-10276836
We have delayed teacher pay raises in exchange for retirement benefits. We need to deliver on the benefits promised teachers and other State employees, but also work to raise teacher pay to match neighboring states like Wyoming. In Wyoming, the average starting teacher's salary is $11,000 higher than here in Colorado.
Currently, three-fourths or 75% of the PERA Board are plan members who are beneficiaries. Research shows the best-performing retirement plan boards have fewer plan beneficiaries and more members with backgrounds in finance and economics.
We must ensure that any changes to the Board are not political. I would not want to leave it up to a Republican Governor to appoint new Board members. New Board members can be chosen from PERA members who teach economics or finance or from city auditors or finance directors.
The Board needs guidance from a savvy and involved Treasurer with a mission to manage funds better; keep a healthy, growing balance; and manage our money with an eye to keeping a commitment to PERA plan members.
We need a public bank in Colorado.
A public bank is not a new idea. Ben Franklin worked to create the first public bank in North America in 1729. North Dakota has had one for 95 years. Recently the Michigan legislature voted to create a public bank.
The mission of a public bank is to serve the public versus paying private investors like Wall Street banks do. The State Treasurer typically deposits billions of dollars of our tax and fee money in multinational banks, which pay a small return on our investment, usually about 1.3%. In turn, these banks loan money to those outside the state and the U.S. With a public bank, we would put that money to work for the people of Colorado. It would be a mechanism to help our communities, not add to the wealth of corporations.
A public bank would not compete with local banks. It could partner with local banks to make loans more affordable for small businesses and students, be a mechanism to fund infrastructure investments at lower rates, and allow our marijuana industry to have a place to bank.
Health Care for All
I know what it’s like to go without health insurance. It is no small thing. Our current Treasurer, Walker Stapleton, campaigned against ColoradoCare, a single-payer initiative on the ballot in 2016. This in part led to its defeat. While the Governor and State Legislature drive health care policy in Colorado, I want to make sure that we expand access to health care as quickly as possible and in a fiscally responsible way.
Our for-profit health care system costs more than those in every developed country in the world and has worse outcomes. We have lower life expectancies and higher infant and maternal mortalities. In 2016, we spent $3.3 trillion, $10,348 per person, on health care; and health care spending accounted for 18% of our gross domestic product (GDP) – more than anywhere else in the developed world -- and our health care system still does not cover everyone.
We can do better than allowing a health care system to rob families with huge premiums, surprise medical bills, and the threat of bankruptcy. About 60% of all bankruptcies are due to high medical bills. I believe that a just and decent society should provide health care for everyone.
And, I believe in putting my efforts where my heart is. I was a supporter of ColoradoCare (universal health care) during the last election cycle in Colorado. I realize that this proposal fell short in some respects, but I don't think we can count on a solution coming from Washington D.C. We must renew our efforts to bring health care to everyone in a fiscally responsible way.
CLIMATE CHANGE Is Real
I believe that global climate change is real and is an urgent issue. I plan to move the state's money out of Wells Fargo in part because they fund oil and gas development in undesirable areas such as the Dakota Access Pipeline.
I have pledged to not accept any money from the fossil fuel industry and have been endorsed by 350 Action and Keep Colorado Green.
To Win in november, our candidate must be Qualified, Experienced, & Independent
I have the best chance of winning against a Republican opponent. As a first time candidate, I received more than 1,000 votes at the Democratic State Assembly to earn a spot on the ballot. We are a grassroots campaign and have spent less than $50,000 over the course of eight months. A number of other great candidates spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and did not make it on the ballot. I did, because my message and my campaign resonates with voters, and will this Fall.
All of the Republican primary candidates have experience in business, finance, or both. The Democratic candidate should, too. My being a small-business owner, having lived without health insurance, and not being a political insider gives me an edge with unaffiliated voters and people who are disappointed in the status quo - as they should be.
I have a background in finance and economics, with an undergraduate degree in economics from the U Penn and a graduate degree from MIT in management and finance. I have been a Chief Financial Officer, worked in corporate finance, and managed my own business in Denver. You wouldn’t hire a plumber to fix your teeth, so why hire a politician for a finance job?
I do not take contributions from corporate or special interest PACs, so you can be sure I will work on behalf of the people of Colorado and not for corporations or special interest groups.
We need a consumer advocate who can call out government agencies when they are wasting our money and advise Coloradans on the financial sustainability of statewide ballot initiatives. Because I am not an insider and do not owe anything to anyone, I have the ability to be true to the voters of Colorado.
Most of our state’s money is currently invested in large Wall Street banks, mostly Wells Fargo. Because I take no money from them, I am not afraid to divest our money from Wells Fargo and other big Wall Street entities. Colorado's money should not be boosting up the profits of banks that, at best, are "too-big-to-fail" and, at worst, commit fraud.
I am delighted you have taken the time to visit my page and learn about me and this campaign.
Please donate if you can, every little bit helps, $1, $3, $5, and if you can spare the time, we also need volunteers. Thank you for your help with this grassroots effort.