Thursday, May 12, 2016

Pat Contreras, State Treasurer Candidate

1. What do you view as the key role, and/or attributes needed for this position? What experience/attributes do you have that qualify you for this position? 

The State Treasurer is responsible for managing the State of Missouri’s $3.6 billion portfolio, managing the MOST 529 College Savings Program, and returning unclaimed property. I believe that it is also important for the State Treasurer to understand the struggles of working families, and have a long-term vision for what we want to accomplish as a state, and understand what investments need to be made in order to put Missourians in control of their financial futures. With my degrees in business, economics, and public administration, along with my experience working as a trained economist with the federal reserve, and serving as a diplomat overseas, helping protect our national security as well as advancing business investments here in the U.S., I firmly believe that I am not only qualified for the position of Missouri State Treasurer, but that I am the best qualified candidate in the field.

2. Why do you think you are the best person for this position? What differentiates you from your opponent(s)?

I am the best candidate for the office of State Treasurer because, first, I know the struggles that working class families face. I grew up in a split-family household where my mother often had to work 2 jobs provide for me and my sister. Second, I am the only candidate with the experience and technical skills needed for the job of State Treasurer. I received my bachelor’s degrees in business and economics from SLU, and my master’s in public administration from Columbia University. I worked as a trained economist for the Federal Reserve, working to increase financial literacy and increasing access to financial capital to underserved and unbanked populations in MO. Third, I have a long-term vision for the state that involves investing here in our home state to procure a better future for future generations of Missourians.

3. What do you feel are the most pressing issues currently facing this office and what plans do you have to address these issues? (please be specific)

The three most pressing issues currently facing the State Treasurer’s office are 1) clearing up financial deserts; 2) increasing financial literacy; and 3) making college more affordable.

St. Louis has the largest unbanked population of any major city in the country. That means that there are thousands of people without access to banks – without bank accounts – who are forced to go to check-cashing outlets and pay day loan companies. There are currently 900 more pay day loan and check cashing outlets than there are McDonald’s in the state of Missouri. For these people, it is next to impossible to save, to invest, to take out reasonable loans, and ultimately to take control over their financial lives and get ahead in life. I plan to work with community banks and local credit unions to clear up these financial deserts, and empower thousands of people to participate in our state economy and invest in their futures in a way that, as it stands now, they are unable to do.

Second, I intend to add to the State Treasurer’s responsibilities overseeing a financial literacy program. Both in and out of financial deserts, there are many people who lack the basic financial literacy that they need to take advantage of programs and resources that they have at their future. This includes the underserved, as well as young people and college students.

Third, we need to make college more accessible and affordable for our young people. Getting young people and families started early in saving helps to combat high student debt. Right now, less than 3% of families use the 529 savings plan. My goal is to triple the number of Missourians using this plan by starting a matching program for the first $2500 saved, working through our financial literacy program in underserved communities to educate people about the benefits of the program, and working to procure funding so start a 529 plan for children of all Missouri veterans.

4. Describe how you work with, or will work with, others to address your priorities.

My background has taught me the importance of teamwork and collaboration. I intend to work with the state legislature, other statewide elected officials, and local community and labor leaders to help advance what I believe to be priorities that benefit all Missourians.

5. Who are your 3 largest campaign contributors? Do you have a policy on accepting lobbyist gifts? Are there donors from whom you will not accept campaign contributions?

My three largest contributors are Ken McClain, Mike Haverty, and McCormack Baron Salazar. As I’m not currently an elected official, and also not part of the legislature, which is where most lobbyist gifts are directed, we haven’t received lobbyist gifts, but as a general rule, we evaluate campaign contributions on an individual basis to ensure that they are consistent with our mission and our values.

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