Republican Greg Conlon and Democrat Fiona Ma will square off in the Nov. 6 general election to replace incumbent John Chiang as California state treasurer.
As the state’s banker, the treasurer is elected to a four-year term to manage California’s investments and finances. The treasurer’s responsibilities include investing state funds, financing public works such as schools and transportation projects, and serving on both of the state pension plan boards — the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System — which administer billions of dollars of pension funds to millions of public workers in California.
Overhauling those retirement plans is a priority for Conlon. He called the current state of California pensions “irresponsible.” He advocates for a defined contribution plan for new state employees, which would mean the growth that employees receive in their state retirement plans would depend on the amount of money they contribute and the performance of the investments they choose.
“We must reform California’s Public Pension System,” Conlon said on his website. “This is a real crisis with very real consequences to the state and to public employees. It is not fair to leave a $300 billion dollar unfunded pension liability to future generations.”
Conlon’s other platforms include improving California’s credit rating and eliminating the $800 minimum state franchise income tax — which taxes corporations’ net income a minimum of $800 — to attract and promote new businesses.
Conlon spent more than 20 years as a certified public accountant, or CPA, at the Arthur Andersen accounting firm. Conlon served on the the California Public Utilities Commission as president for two years. He ran unsuccessfully for treasurer against John Chiang in 2014 and also ran for the U.S. Senate in the 2016 primary.
“California needs a Republican who can exercise prudent fiscal responsibility to fix the State’s vulnerable financial condition,” Conlon said in a statement.
The California Republican Party, the American Independent Party and former U.S. secretary of the treasury George P. Shultz have endorsed Conlon’s campaign.
Ma, a CPA, is member of the State Board of Equalization and was a member of the California State Assembly from 2006 to 2012. On her website, Ma said she will oversee “socially responsible” investments with state funds in affordable housing, infrastructure, schools, hospitals, first responders, environmental protection and transportation. Ma also emphasized working to make the state’s investments more transparent and accountable.
In her candidate statement, Ma also said she will make housing more accessible in California through a first-time homebuyer program and that she will work to alleviate high student loan debt.
“Many parts of our great state still lag behind in economic recovery, the gap between the wealthiest and poorest Californians continues to grow, and the growth in our cities must be effectively managed to ensure shared prosperity,” Ma said on her website. “As Treasurer, I will make sure we have access to the capital necessary to complete the projects Californians deserve while also helping to create good jobs and keep our economy growing.”
Cal Berkeley Democrats has endorsed Ma, as have many of the biggest names in the California Democratic Party, including U.S. Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, and U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Incumbent treasurer Chiang has also endorsed Ma. The California Teachers Association and California Small Business Association have backed Ma as well.
Ma took a commanding lead in the primary election, with 44.5 percent of the vote, versus Conlon, who collected 20.8 percent.