The Golden State is seeking its banker—a skilled money manager to invest the idle cash of state and local governments, issue bonds, and sit on its major pension boards.
This treasurer will be expected to:
- Borrow money on the state’s behalf and manage its existing debt
- Manage roughly $75 billion in the extra cash reserves of various state agencies and local governments
- Chair committees that help finance affordable housing construction, pollution clean-up programs, non-profit hospitals, and public transportation projects, among other programs
- Sit on the boards that manage the state’s public employee and teacher pension systems—two of the largest funds in the world
- Figure out how to collect, store, and invest all the new cash flooding into the state’s coffers from the cannabis industry
- While the treasurer is under no obligation to use the state’s financial resources to influence social policy, cutting ties with scandal-plagued financial institutions or championing investment boycotts of politically unpopular corporations may improve one’s chances of being re-hired in 2022.
Note: Remember that the treasurer does not sign off on state payments or draw up the state’s budget. You’re thinking of the Controller’s Office (another opening we need to fill) and the Department of Finance (appointed by the governor).
Board of Equalization member Fiona Ma is seeking her first statewide post after trouncing the field in the primary election. Her Republican opponent Greg Conlon is making his third bid for the job.
Both are certified public accountants who say they have the knowledge and experience of both state government and tax laws to take on the job of state treasurer.
Meet the Applicants
Greg Conlon of Atherton is a retired partner from the Big Five accounting firm of Arthur Andersen LLP, and he is making another bid to be state treasurer.
This is his third time running for the job. He lost to Democrat Phil Angelides in 2002 and John Chiang in 2014.
Conlon served as president and commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission in the 1990s, and also served on the state Transportation Commission. He has also served on the city of Atherton’s finance committee to help balance the city budget.
He is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Utah and earned his law degree from the University of San Francisco.
Recommended by: Former U.S. Secretary of State, Treasury and Labor George Shultz
Fiona Ma is a member of the California State Board of Equalization and she is a certified public accountant.
She is a former member of the state Assembly, where she advocated legislation to ban toxic chemicals in baby products, and former San Francisco supervisor.
In a letter on her campaign website, Ma pledges to invest capital and secure funding for needed infrastructure projects, such transportation, public schools, housing, water quality, and pollution reduction.
Born and raised in New York, she is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology, Golden Gate University and Pepperdine University. She is married to Oxnard Harbor Commissioner Jason Hodge.
Recommended by: U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, California Teachers Association, California Small Business Association and California League of Conservation Voters.
Contributions to candidates for treasurer
Fiona Ma is the front-runner to succeed State Treasurer John Chiang, who ran unsuccessfully for governor. Conlon and Republican Jack Guerrero both ran their campaigns on a relative shoestring, while Ma raised more than $1.6 million for the primary.