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Utah leaders evaluate 10-year financial literacy effort

Posted on: October 19th, 2018

Utah State Treasurer David Damschen and Auditor John Dougall are meeting with financial literacy leaders at the Utah Jump$tart Coalition Partners Meeting on October 19 at the Wells Fargo Building in Salt Lake City. This annual gathering focuses on how businesses, nonprofits and schools can work together to prepare youth for financial success.

“Utah is the only A+ state in the nation for financial and economic literacy education,” said Anna Tibbitts, Director of the Utah Jump$tart Coalition, “For the past decade, Utah has taken a proactive role in preparing students to make smart financial decisions. This gathering of financial literacy leaders is designed to evaluate what we have accomplished and what we can do better moving forward.”

The Office of the State Auditor recently released its review of Utah’s General Financial Literacy (GFL) graduation requirement and associated program. The 2017‐18 school year marked the ten‐year anniversary of the enactment of Utah’s GFL legislative mandate.

State Auditor John Dougall said, “The results from our Office’s review show that Utah students who have completed the GFL requirement appear to have better personal financial knowledge and make better behavioral choices than those who have not. The study also identifies opportunities to improve the effectiveness of the program itself to help further strengthen the financial skills of Utah’s young adults as well opportunities to enhance program oversight.”

The report may be found on the Office’s website at auditor.utah.gov and specifically at: https://reporting.auditor.utah.gov/servlet/servlet.FileDownload?file=015410000038ypZAAQ .

Treasurer Damschen chairs the Utah Council on Financial and Economic Education, an organization comprised of more than 50 private and public entities that share a common mission to increase the financial capability of Utahns.

“A primary objective of the Utah Council on Financial and Economic Education is to advocate for and strengthen K-12 financial education in Utah,” Treasurer Damschen said. “I applaud the outstanding efforts of organizations like the Utah Jump$tart Coalition and the Utah State Board of Education to make Utah the leader in the nation in financial literacy. The council is eager to support the implementation of the auditor’s recommendations to strengthen a program that is critical in providing our youth with the knowledge and resources they need to establish a strong foundation for a financially secure future.”

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Treasurer Damschen announces record-breaking Permanent State School Fund distribution to Utah schools

Posted on: September 27th, 2018

Funds go to schools for programs chosen by parents, teachers and principals at no cost to taxpayers

SALT LAKE CITY – September 27, 2018 – Utah State Treasurer David Damschen today announced that the Permanent State School Fund will make the largest-ever distribution to Utah schools next year.

Schools are slated to receive a record $82.66 million from the Permanent State School Fund in July 2019 – a 12 percent increase from this year’s distribution of $74 million and a 29 percent increase from last year’s distribution of $64.25 million.

Under the School LAND Trust Program, investment earnings from the Permanent State School Fund are distributed to every school in the state based on a per pupil formula. Each school’s community council, comprised of parents, teachers and the principal, annually determines the greatest academic needs of their students and prepares plans to improve student academic performance with their portion of distributions from the fund.

“I applaud the great work of the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) administering trust lands and the solid investment decisions of the School and Institutional Trust Funds Office (SITFO) maximizing the impact of the Permanent State School Fund. Their efforts benefit Utah’s education programs now and for years to come,” Treasurer Damschen said. “Every dollar we earn through prudent investment of the fund is a dollar in school funding not paid by the Utah taxpayer.”

Since SITLA’s formation in 1994, the agency has generated nearly $1.9 billion in revenue to help grow the Permanent School Fund from $76 million to $2.4 billion.

“At SITLA, we strive to administer trust lands as effectively as possible for Utah’s schoolchildren, generating revenue from energy, real estate and surface development on the 3.3 million acres of school trust lands,” SITLA Director David Ure said. “The best part of my job is visiting schools and seeing the positive ways schools use their distributions to create better educational experiences for students.”

Legislation enacted in 2014 created SITFO as an independent state agency tasked with the investment of these funds. SITFO is overseen by a five-member Board of Trustees composed of investment professionals and chaired by the state treasurer.

“As a team of outcome-oriented investors, we strive to prudently optimize the return on the School and Institutional Trusts’ investments for Utah’s public education programs,” SITFO Director and Chief Investment Officer Peter Madsen said. “It is always very rewarding to see the figures come to life and help make a real impact in Utah classrooms.”

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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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