Fiona Ma for California State Treasurer

  ·  The Orange County Register   ·  Link to Article

California state treasurers play an important role in managing the state’s financial resources.

Tasked with serving as the state’s banker, the treasurer administers the sale of bonds and serves on numerous boards, including those of the state pension giants CalPERS and CalSTRS.

Such responsibilities give the treasurer a clear position of influence in important facets of state spending.

With incumbent John Chiang leaving the office, voters have to choose new leadership.

Running are John Conlon, who has worked as a certified public accountant in the private sector, and Fiona Ma, also a former private CPA who serves on the California Board of Equalization. Ma received a B.A. in accounting at Rochester Institute of Technology, a master’s in taxation from Golden Gate University and an MBA from Pepperdine.

In conversations with our editorial board, both candidates offered serious ideas. Conlon is concerned with the pension tsunami hitting the state, and emphasized the need to use the treasurer’s position on pension boards to demand pension reform.

Ma, meanwhile, noted her role as a swing vote on the Board of Equalization as evidence she can set aside partisanship in defense of taxpayers. Ma also expressed an interest in enhancing transparency with respect to the state’s bond funds, including maintaining a readily accessible source displaying unused bond resources.

Ultimately, our editorial board believes Ma is best suited for the job, though we encourage Ma to take a more skeptical approach to the state’s undeniable pension problem.

Conlon is certainly right that California’s pension problems threaten the long-term fiscal well-being of the state. But treasurers have much more to do than hope to effect change via state pension boards.

And on that front, Ma offers a more comprehensive approach to the job, one that could on balance be a positive benefit for taxpayers.

Ma’s interest in making it clearer just how bonds are used and how many bonds have been authorized but not yet spent might help slow the constant onslaught of requests for more costly bonds.

We recommend Ma for treasurer.