TORRINGTON – State Sen. Curt Meier (R-LaGrange) was in town Monday to formally announce he’s making a run for the office of Wyoming State Treasurer.
Meier visited with a group of supporters in the meeting room at Platte Valley Bank in Torrington. Following the meeting, he told The Telegram his almost quarter-century in the state legislature, along with his personal history in Goshen County agribusiness, make the top financial office in the state the next logical step.
“There’s a lot of similarities” between running a successful business and overseeing the state’s finances, Meier said. “When you’re in agriculture, you have to make decisions as to what profit centers might be profitable this year against others that might not make a profit.
“It’s the same situation when you’re looking at (state) investments,” he said. “Some years, different sectors of the market, different investment portfolios might be more productive.”
Meier announced in mid-March the formation of a committee to study his eventual run for the treasurer’s office. Current state treasurer Mark Gordon had visited Torrington as part of a state-wide tour to announce a bid for the governor’s office. Meier said, if Gordon hadn’t announced his plans to seek the state’s top office, he wouldn’t be considering a bid for treasurer.
“I’ve been in the Senate for 24 years,” Meier told The Telegram on March 16. “That’s a good long time. Rather than get identified as ‘Senator Curt Meier,’ I’m still ‘Curt Meier, the senator.’
“As far as the needs of the state, a lot of it is about revenue,” he said. “A well-run treasurer’s office will generate a good revenue stream.”
During his time in the senate, Meier has served on several committees, including time as legislative liaison to the state’s Retirement System, overseeing the pensions for public employees in Wyoming. He was involved in putting together a team of “qualified people” to manage those funds, a history he believes will be beneficial in the treasurer’s office.
“My reason for running for the office is the challenges that face this state,” Meier said. “In particular, the challenges of the treasurer’s office to pretty much start with a good program … the last three treasurers have put in place, continue the professionalism the current treasurer has begun to implement.
“It’s along the same lines as the program we implemented in the State Retirement System,” he said. “What we’ve been able to accomplish there is to make sure we have qualified people as investment officers, mid-level and lower-level analysts.”
One benefit of the Retirement System he hopes to bring to the treasurer’s office is the speed with which things get done. Once decisions are made in the Retirement System, they’re implemented quickly, where getting things done in the treasurer’s office often happens at a slower pace,
“We need an overview of the systems in the treasurer’s office,” Meier said. “There are some antiquated areas within the structure of the treasurer’s office that need some addressing, as far as the ability of the chief financial officer (of the state) to implement some of the decision they do on a timely basis.
“The checks and balances – we need to modify them to make the system operate a little more efficiently,” he said. “It’s probably past time to start with that.”
One hot-button issue Meier said the treasurer’s office can have an impact on is education funding in the state. Working with the Common School Land Fund and the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund, future projected shortfalls and cuts in education funding can be addressed, he said.
Between the two funds, there’s about $20 billion available, Meier said. But a significant portion of that – about $8 billion – pays for workers compensations, scholarships and other commitments the state would otherwise have to stop funding, he said.
“Between the two funds, there’s about $12 billion … that can go toward funding education,” he said. “It’s reckless to suggest there’s $20 billion the state can invest to solve the revenue woes, because there isn’t.”
But it’s not as if the treasurer operates in a vacuum, making all the decisions alone. An important aspect of the job – one which Meier said he has first-hand experience with from his work with the Retirement System – is building a qualified team to get the job done.
“It’s putting that team together, letting the professionals do their work,” Meier said. “And having the background to understand the job, to ask the tough questions, to make sure people stay on track.”