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Treasurer Damschen appoints new SITFO board member

Posted on: June 25th, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY – June 25, 2018 – Utah State Treasurer David Damschen today announced the appointment of Jason Gull to the School and Institutional Trust Funds Office (SITFO) Board of Trustees.

When Utah became a state in 1896, Congress granted approximately seven million acres of land into twelve separate trusts for the support of state institutions, the largest being a trust for the perpetual support of public schools. The land has been administered by the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) since 1994. In 2014, the Utah State Legislature created SITFO as an independent state agency with a five-member Board of Trustees, chaired by the state treasurer, to invest the funds produced by SITLA’s administration of the land.

“The depth and quality of Mr. Gull’s background in private equity complements the broad range of institutional investment management expertise our existing board members bring to the table,” Treasurer Damschen said. “He will bring a unique dimension of perspective and inquiry to our work as fiduciaries, policymakers and overseers.”

Gull was formerly a partner, head of secondary investments and member of the executive committee at Adams Street Partners, a global private markets investment manager with approximately $30 billion of assets under management. Among his other experiences, he worked at Landmark Partners, a global private equity and real estate investment firm, and was a director of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Olympic Winter Games of 2002. Gull earned his bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from BYU and his MBA from Yale.

“Education is an invaluable public resource, and the School and Institutional Trusts are ultimately an investment in our community as a whole,” Gull said. “I look forward to applying my knowledge and experience as a board member to ensure that SITFO continues to make solid investment decisions that will benefit Utah’s education programs for years to come.”

The SITFO Nominating Committee met five times during the past four months to identify and interview candidates. Treasurer Damschen interviewed the committee’s final nominations before appointing Gull to the board. Gull will serve a six-year term, to expire June 30, 2024.

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State treasurers outline infrastructure principles in response to President Trump’s $1.5 trillion proposal

Posted on: February 13th, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) called on Members of Congress to expand the use of tax-exempt debt to meet future financing thresholds in response to President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal.

NAST President and Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce said, “State and local governments finance more than 75 percent of all U.S. infrastructure projects, and while we are pleased to see that the proposal recognizes the importance of partnering with state and local governments, policymakers must ensure we have access to the funding mechanisms needed to execute this robust plan. As the House and Senate develop legislation, we urge lawmakers to expand the use of tax-exempt debt to ensure state and local governments can maximize their ability to support critically needed infrastructure enhancement.”

Developed during NAST’s 2018 Legislative Conference yesterday in Washington D.C., state treasurers outlined the following three principles to guide federal policymakers as they consider the administration’s infrastructure proposal:

  • Clear Need: State treasurers agree that America’s aging infrastructure requires significant upgrades, which will require substantial investments from a variety of sources in order to meet the needs.
  • State & Local Input: State and local governments fund more than three-quarters of the nation’s infrastructure, which includes bridges, roads, hospitals, schools, and water management projects. Therefore, state and local officials understand the financial tools needed to implement a robust infrastructure plan and they must be involved in the decision-making process surrounding infrastructure spending.
  • Smart Solutions: To ensure state and local governments are equipped with the financial tools needed to implement a major infrastructure plan, Congress must support tax-exempt financing. This includes maximizing the use of tax-exempt municipal bonds, private activity bonds, and reinstating access to tax-exempt advance refunding bonds.

“State treasurers are experts on infrastructure finance, and we must ensure that this plan is implemented using smart strategies that optimize the use of public funds,” said NAST Senior Vice President and Utah State Treasurer David Damschen. “We welcome the expansion of private activity bonds in the President’s infrastructure proposal, and we urge lawmakers to build on this by providing state treasurers with access to the diverse funding mechanisms needed to expedite these important investments. We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to advance these critical goals.”

Treasurer Damschen explained that tax-exempt advance refunding bonds helped save Utah taxpayers more than $105 million over the past five years alone by allowing the state to refinance bonds at lower interest rates. Last year, states issued more than $100 billion in advance refunding bonds. This refinancing tool was a common practice in states and allowed them to save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars per year, which could be reinvested in vital infrastructure projects. Unfortunately, the recent federal tax reform law eliminated the tax-exempt status of advance refunding bonds.

During a panel discussion this morning at NAST’s 2018 Legislative Conference, U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren (R-IL) announced that he and U.S. Representative Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), both Co-Chairs of the Municipal Finance Caucus, introduced legislation today to restore the tax exemption for advance refunding bonds that was repealed in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

“States and local governments need flexibility for managing their finances so they can invest in infrastructure like roads, bridges, hospital, libraries and schools to support our communities,” said Rep. Hultgren. “In recent years, tax-exempt advance refunding bonds have saved Illinois taxpayers $80 million per year on average. Given that interest rates are expected to increase, this tool is especially important to states and local governments responsibly planning for the future.”

To learn more about NAST’s federal policies, or about infrastructure spending, click here.

Utah State Treasurer David Damschen named NCPERS Policymaker of the Year

Posted on: January 30th, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY – January 30, 2018 – The National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS) honored Utah State Treasurer David Damschen this week with the 2017 Policymaker of the Year award at the association’s annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.

Treasurer Damschen received the award as recognition for his work advocating for states’ rights and effective approaches to sound retirement systems and policies.

Among his efforts, Treasurer Damschen worked to defend Department of Labor safe harbor rules, which empowered states to develop simple, low-cost retirement savings programs for workers who lack access to a workplace retirement plan. He wrote an op-ed on the topic.

“It is an honor to accept this award and a great privilege to support states that are striving to address the growing retirement savings gap in our country,” Treasurer Damschen said. “I am grateful for NCPERS’ leadership and advocacy, and I look forward to continued collaboration with the association.”

NCPERS is the largest nonprofit trade association for public sector pension funds, representing more than 500 funds throughout the United States and Canada that collectively manage more than $3 trillion in pension assets. Its core missions are federal and state advocacy, conducting research vital to the public pension community and educating pension trustees and officials.

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Utah State Treasurer named Senior Vice President of the National Association of State Treasurers

Posted on: January 22nd, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY – January 22, 2018 – The Office of the Utah State Treasurer today announced that

Treasurer David Damschen will serve as 2018 senior vice president of the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST).

NAST is a bipartisan association comprised of state treasurers and state finance officials with comparable responsibilities.

“NAST provides a wealth of knowledge and resources to treasurers across the country, enabling us to administer sound financial policies and programs,” Treasurer Damschen said. “It is an honor to serve in this national leadership position, as Utah continues to collaborate with other states on shared fiscal opportunities and challenges.”

The association serves its members through educational conferences and webinars, a variety of working groups, policy advocacy and publications that provide information about developments in public finance. As senior vice president, Treasurer Damschen will be responsible for coordinating the association’s annual conference, serving as liaison to the Corporate Affiliate Board and acting on behalf of the president in her absence.

NAST President and Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce said, “Treasurer Damschen is a national leader in public finance and an expert on banking and treasury management. He is a dedicated public servant and a person of integrity. I am proud to serve with him at NAST.”

Treasurer Damschen served as the 2017 chairman of the NAST Legislative Committee, where he helped shape the association’s federal policy agenda and worked with the association’s National Executive Committee to coordinate federal advocacy efforts regarding state financial issues in Washington, D.C.

To learn more about the Office of the Utah State Treasurer, visit: treasurer.utah.gov. Additional information on NAST and its 2018 legislative priorities is available at nast.org.

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Utah Unclaimed Property Administrator named President of National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators

Posted on: January 22nd, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY – January 22, 2018 – The Office of the Utah State Treasurer today announced that Utah Unclaimed Property Administrator Dennis Johnston will serve as the 2018 president of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA).

As an affiliate network of the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST), NAUPA increases awareness of unclaimed property as a vital consumer protection program.

Millions of dollars in lost or unclaimed property is turned over to the State of Utah every year. This money comes from places like dormant bank accounts, old stock certificates and uncollected insurance checks.

“Recent technology improvements have enabled our division to maintain record levels of unclaimed property payouts to rightful owners,” Johnston said.  “It is an honor to lead this national network and collaborate with other states on ways we can continue to improve our efforts to get lost property back where it belongs.”

Under Johnston’s leadership, the number of paid unclaimed property claims in Utah has quadrupled, and more than 50 percent of claims are paid in just one week. Utah continues to lead the nation in its efforts to improve unclaimed property processes, including through its 2017 adoption of the revised Unclaimed Property Act.

“I have worked with Dennis in his role as senior vice president at NAUPA and as the Western Region vice president. I look forward to his continued leadership at NAUPA,” NAST President and Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce said. “Under the leadership of both Treasurer Damschen and Dennis Johnston, it is no surprise that Utah became one of the first states in the nation to adopt the revised Unclaimed Property Act.”

This is Johnston’s third year serving in NAUPA leadership and sixth year as Utah’s Unclaimed Property administrator.

Lost or abandoned property can be found by searching mycash.utah.gov or by calling 801-715-3300.

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Utah One of Top Five Most Fiscally Healthy States in the Nation

Posted on: July 19th, 2017

“Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition 2017”

SALT LAKE CITY – July  19, 2017 –Utah State Treasurer David C. Damschen today announced that Utah has been ranked one of the top five most fiscally healthy states in the nation by the George Mason University Mercatus Center.  Entitled “Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition 2017 Edition,” this widely regarded report comparatively determines state financial health through thorough analysis of each state’s revenues, expenditures, cash, assets, liabilities, debt and ability to  meet both short and long-term financial obligations.  Utah is ranked fourth in the nation – with Illinois and New Jersey falling last.

“Utah policymakers must be extremely vigilant in considering both the short and long-term fiscal consequences of every policy decision – because ultimately all policy decisions in some way directly affects our State’s fiscal health,”  said Treasurer Damschen.  “Utah is currently a national fiscal leader with enviable economic growth due largely to our staunchly conservative approach to state finances, and I applaud the Utah team for this collective achievement.  Fiscally conservative financial practices prevail long-term – plain and simple.”

From the Report – Top Five States

Florida, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming rank in the top five states. According to the report, “top-performing states tend to have higher levels of cash, low unfunded pensions, and strong operating positions.”

  • Low debt and a strong cash position help maintain fiscal discipline. Keeping debt levels low, saving cash to pay bills, and maintaining solvent budgets reflect a culture of fiscal discipline. The first-place position of Florida in particular demonstrates that this is possible even with a relatively larger population and higher pension costs that arise from an aging population.
  • Oil and gas revenues play a role in short-term fiscal health. The top-performing states owe some of their success to unpredictable revenue sources. As oil prices have been declining, however, we see this detrimentally affecting their budgets. Alaska has moved out of the top five, and Wyoming has moved from third to fifth as a result. North Dakota’s revenues also declined and have the potential to impact their future rankings.
  • Pensions and health care still pose long-term challenges to top-performing states. While these top five states are considered fiscally healthy relative to other states because they have significant amounts of cash on hand and relatively low short-term debt obligations, each state, especially Wyoming, faces substantial long-term challenges related to its pension and healthcare benefits systems.
  • The top five states have changed since last year. Alaska and Nebraska dropped out of the top five, allowing Florida and Utah to join. North Dakota and South Dakota improved from fourth and fifth to second and third, respectively, pushing Wyoming down two spots to fifth place.

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Treasurer Damschen Announces Saving Over $5 Million Taxpayer Dollars

Posted on: June 22nd, 2017

State’s New Payments Contract Saves Taxpayer Dollars, Increases Protections Against Fraud & Provides Quality Customer Service

SALT LAKE CITY – June 22, 2017 – Utah State Treasurer David Damschen today announced that the Office of the Utah State Treasurer saved Utah taxpayers over $5 million through a competitive procurement process for the State of Utah’s soon-to-expire merchant services contract. During the year long process, seven proposals were thoroughly evaluated jointly with the state’s Division of Finance to determine which service provider could best facilitate the State’s credit card, debit card, mobile and online payment processing needs. The over $5 million in savings will be realized over the course of the 10-year contract and save Utahns over $242,000 in the first year alone – a nearly 40 percent first-year annual cost savings.

“Our new contract saves Utah taxpayers over $5 million, a nearly 40 percent cost savings in the first year alone,” said Treasurer Damschen. “State agencies like DMV, Department of Natural Resources and DABC process millions of credit and debit card transactions each year for things from motor vehicle registration fees to hunting and fishing licenses – and while the treasurer’s office doesn’t collect this money from Utahns – we want to ensure the processes by which this is done are the safest, most cost-effective available.”

Chase Paymentech LLC, a division of J.P. Morgan Chase was chosen through the competitive process. The contract has statewide cooperative designation, which means any local government entity in Utah can join the contract and take advantage of the favorable terms negotiated by the State.

In addition to the over $5 million in taxpayer savings, other benefits for Utahns include quality customer service, increased security against payment fraud and enhanced protection against data breaches through Paymentech’s proprietary security solutions.

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Utah maintains AAA credit rating from all major rating agencies

Posted on: June 14th, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY  (June 14, 2017) – Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Treasurer David C. Damschen announced today that S&P Global, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings have reaffirmed the state’s “AAA” credit rating. The rating affirmations coincide with the upcoming release of the Preliminary Official Statement and Notice of Bond Sale for the legislatively authorized $146.3 million transaction, which will fund a portion of the state prison project and several transportation projects.

“I am proud that Utah is one of the 10 states receiving a AAA rating by all three rating agencies again this year,” said Gov. Herbert. “Our triple-triple rating and broad economic success can be largely credited to the the principles of fiscal discipline and budgetary restraint, which we have worked closely with the legislature to maintain year after year. These bond ratings have again proven that thoughtful money management practices lead to continual growth and stability.”

Last week, Treasurer Damschen and the governor’s State Budget Director Phil Dean traveled to New York City to meet with the agencies to secure ratings in preparation for the state’s upcoming bond issue.

“Utah’s conservative fiscal principles and wise money management practices earn the highest credit ratings, allowing us to finance large projects at the very best rates available – saving Utah taxpayer dollars,” said Treasurer Damschen. “Utah is a national fiscal leader with enviable economic growth due in part to our staunchly conservative approach to state finances, debt management and other financial policies – and I applaud the Utah team for this collective achievement.”

Utah’s history of continuous AAA bond ratings dates back to 1965, when S&P initiated its rating system. The State’s AAA rating with Moody’s dates back to 1973, and with Fitch Ratings back to 1992.

As cited in the rating reports, the agencies’ rationales for Utah’s ratings include:

  • The state’s conservative debt and fiscal policies, which have kept debt levels low and quickly amortizing, and have allowed for successful and timely action when addressing budgetary imbalances.

  • A diversified state economy that is emerging as an important regional center in information technology, finance and business services.

  • Application of a number of strong management practices, such as binding consensus revenue forecasting, multi-year financial planning, budget stress testing review, and a debt affordability analysis.

  • A young, well-educated workforce and an unemployment rate that is among the lowest of the 50 states.

  • Low long-term liabilities, with the combined burden of net tax-supported debt and adjusted unfunded pension liabilities equal to 3.6% of 2015 personal income, compared with a 5.1% median for all U.S. states.

  • A very strong ability to close budgetary gaps during a cyclical downturn, based on its demonstrated controls over spending, ability to raise revenues when necessary, and access to reserves.

On Tues., June 27, 2017, the Office of Utah State Treasurer will receive competitive bids for the bonds, utilizing an electronic system designed to rank submitted bids in real-time, ensuring that borrowing costs are minimized and the low cost bidder is identified immediately following the bid deadline.

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Treasurer Damschen, Senator Hillyard, & Representative Snow Applaud Passage of SB 175

Posted on: March 15th, 2017

Bill Protects Utahns’ Property Rights & Helps Safeguard Utahns from Identity Theft

Highlights Need to Tackle Tabled Items in Coming Year

SALT LAKE CITY – March 15, 2017 – Utah Treasurer David Damschen, Senator Lyle Hillyard (R – Logan), and Representative Lowry Snow (R – St. George) today applauded the final passage of SB 175.  This legislation protects Utahns’ individual property rights and modernizes Utah’s 1981 unclaimed property law to better fit today’s technology – including requiring businesses and other organizations to encrypt Utahns’ personal information when reporting lost or abandoned property to the State of Utah. 

“Replacing our outdated Unclaimed Property statute is a great accomplishment and I commend our legislature for unanimously supporting this effort. That said, there are certain changes in the law related to properties held by the banking and insurance industries that we may still have to make – and we will work on those issues in the coming year,” said Treasurer Damschen.  “These areas involve certain prepaid debit card account balances that could become lost – and situations involving the death of an individual with life insurance whose beneficiaries are unaware of the policy and therefore fail to claim it – all of which should be covered by unclaimed property law.”

“For over two years the Uniform Law Commission worked closely with state treasurers, the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, and industry representatives to ensure all affected parties’ interests were carefully considered in this legislation – and then we spent the last months doing the same here in Utah,” added Senator Hillyard. “This legislation goes a long way to protect individual property rights in Utah.”

Highlights of SB 175 include but are not limited to:

·         Explicitly requires personal information reported to the Unclaimed Property Division by holders be encrypted to protect the identities of Utah’s unclaimed property owners.

·         Defines virtual currency for the first time in Utah’s unclaimed property statutes.  Expressly provides coverage of new and evolving payment mediums.

·         Removes mandatory distribution requirements for triggering the commencement of the abandonment period for retirement plans and creates reporting criteria for Roth IRAs.

·         Expands standards of owner contact including certain types of online activity, including account balance inquiries.  Reflects the reality that owner contact occurs electronically and not just in verbal or written form which may reduce the instances where items are reported to the state inappropriately.

·         Creates abandonment parameters for college savings and other tax-deferred investments where distributions are not mandatory.

·         Expressly authorizes an offset against an approved claim for owner obligations, including child support, taxes and civil judgments.  Ensures that an owner’s debts and obligations due third parties are satisfied.

·         Changes a 1981 vintage 12 percent interest rate charge for late reporting of unclaimed property to a floating rate more in line with interest charges for late filing of Utah State income tax returns.

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Treasurer Damschen Urges Senators Hatch & Lee to Stand Up for States’ Rights to Serve Constituents without Unnecessary Interference from Washington

Posted on: March 8th, 2017

 Rescinding Rules that Protect State Innovation Will Reduce Retirement Savings Options for Americans

 SALT LAKE CITY – March 8, 2017 – In recent letters, Utah State Treasurer David Damschen urged Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee to stand up for states’ rights to serve constituents without unnecessary interference from Washington – and uphold important DOL Rules that protect state innovation in the area of retirement savings plans.  The U.S. House recently passed resolutions of disapproval (H.J. Res. 66 and H.J. Res. 67) nullifying these Rules.

“States are laboratories of democracy and when states roll up their sleeves to solve problems locally – we need the federal government to get out of the way,” said Utah State Treasurer David Damschen.  “Many states have invested considerable effort these past several years passing legislation and developing programs to address the retirement savings gap.  Rescinding these rules would be disruptive, create uncertainty, and curb the very innovation needed to address this critical problem nationwide.”

A recent study conducted by Provo-based Notalys shows that government outlays for new retirees in Utah will exceed $2.7 billion over the next fifteen years.  Nearly 75 percent of these outlays will be spent on the one third of our constituents who are least-prepared financially for retirement.

In the letters, Treasurer Damschen noted that more than 500,000 private sector workers in Utah don’t have access to a retirement savings vehicle through their employerand nationwide nearly 55 million American workers lack such access.  These workers are fifteen times more likely to save for retirement if they can do so through the convenience of an automatic payroll deduction workplace plan than they are by establishing a retirement account on their own.

“Nearly 75 percent of government spending on new retirees goes to the one third who are least-prepared financially for retirement,” added Treasurer Damschen.  “As a fellow Republican I ask you to join us in staunch opposition to this regrettable infringement on states’ rights that will ultimately reduce retirement savings options for Americans.”

*Treasurer Damschen published an op-ed in the Washington Times on this  issue at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/mar/7/retirement-plans-must-be-available-to-small-busine/

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