Isn't it about time to have a State of our Treasury report?

Published January 19, 2023

By Joe Mavretic

Every North Carolina General Assembly invites the sitting governor to address a joint session about the state of our state. From time -to-time, the Chief Justice of our Supreme Court is invited to address the state of our judiciary. These two speeches are mainly about needs from an executive and judicial perspective. What does not happen is an address about the fiscal condition of our state and what funds are available to appropriate for those needs.

Isn’t it about time for our state treasurer to be invited to tell the apolitical truth about the conditions, and needs, of our treasury?

Every General Assembly’s most important task is the biennial budget. Wouldn’t it be wise to spend an hour listening to the "Keeper of the Public Purse?" Wouldn’t it be smart to know the "Condition of the Bank" before beginning the budget process? After all, the budget will be around 24 billion dollars but our treasurer manages over 240 billion…ten times the budget!

The state treasurer is elected state-wide, just like our governor, and is a member of our Council-of-State. There are over twenty duties and responsibilities for our treasurer on the Council-of-State in addition to his tasks as our state’s banker. Shouldn’t we hear about his successes, his frustrations, and his failures?

As our state’s banker, isn’t it about time for the treasurer to present a transparent report on the unfunded liabilities of all our state’s retirement/pension systems? On other post employment benefits (OPEB)? On law enforcement officers’ special separation allowance (LEOSSA) pension?  On the unfunded liabilities of all our state’s health systems? On the difficulties, and consequences, of estimated versus actual returns on our investment portfolio? On the debts owed by our counties and municipalities? On the reserves held by various state agencies? On the state’s bond rating?

Shouldn’t we know the status of our Investment and Banking Division? How about an unvarnished look at the operations and conditions of our Division on State and Local Government Finance. Are there dangers in our Retirement Systems Division? What should we know about escheats and unclaimed property in our Treasurer’s Administrative Services Division?

It might be instructive for our legislators to be reminded of our constitution’s provisions, and our laws’ requirements, for our state’s banker. Every legislator should know the fiscal condition of all the political divisions in her/his district and the treasurer should provide this information.

Before casting a vote on financial or appropriation’s bills, every legislator should know the state’s debt and the annual cost of its repayment. There are always questions about the anticipated returns on our investments.

Our General Assembly should hear not only the concerns of our Treasurer but whatever initiatives are underway, and their intended consequences. The state’s banker is an office that takes the longer view.  The people, and their elected representatives, should know what that is - for better or worse.

Esse Quam Videri.