In Review: The Washington Office of the State Treasurer

Treasurer Duane Davidson

award

I am grateful to have recently received the President’s Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST). I would like to extend a big thank you to NAST for their partnership over the years and for this incredible award. It has given me a chance to reflect back on things from my service as Washington State Treasurer.

As my time as the state’s 23rd treasurer concludes, a feeling of reflection encourages me to look back on what an honor and a privilege it has been to serve Washington in such a significant way. Additionally, when I take a moment to look ahead, 2021 appears ripe with the possibility for positive change. I look forward to my next professional endeavor and gaze proudly back at my 26 years in public service, with the last four as your state treasurer.

Leading an incredible team here in the Treasurer’s Office, together, we were able to procure the first AAA bond rating in state history, which will ultimately save millions in taxpayer dollars. We saved the state millions more by repeatedly refinancing past debt issuances, taking advantage of historically low interest rates and reducing future costs. Additionally, we reduced the Treasury service fee to the lowest it’s ever been, stretching agency budgets further in this time of unprecedented need.

In 2019, I encouraged this office to take bold steps and provide more financing opportunities to local governments by increasing the number of issuances for our LOCAL Program. This move now affords local governments an increased opportunity to finance critical equipment and major purchases. Coming from the viewpoint of a four-term county treasurer, I can truly appreciate the real-world impact this has on local governments. From the perspective of a state treasurer, it was a well-accomplished mission to roll out these changes and improve such a critical program for our local government partners.

While it certainly has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as state treasurer, I am continually impressed with the committed, humble work of Washington’s local governments because they are the ones closest to the people of our great state. This commitment inspired me to seek better opportunities for local governments. Which, is exactly what we did nearly two years ago by creating the Washington Fund Directory. A first of its kind for the state, this online directory digitally connects local governments searching for grants or loans with the resources that can help them reach their financial goals. I am incredibly proud of what we accomplished on a shoestring budget — creating and maintaining the project entirely in house. As every treasurer knows, keeping an eye on the bottom line comes with the territory.

Being mindful of spending is exactly what raises one of my biggest concerns as state treasurer, which continues to be the level of state debt we are amassing. In Fiscal Year 2020 the state’s total outstanding debt and other financial obligations grew to $21.6 billion, ranking Washington as eighth highest debt per capita in the nation according to Moody’s credit rating service. Transparency and awareness of this issue was one of my primary objectives while in office. That is why we worked to expand readership of our annual Debt Affordability Study by developing the Debt Affordability Digest — a two-page document explaining many of the crucial elements of state debt, including our outstanding debt and the state’s debt limit, along with other key debt metrics.

Another topic of great concern I want to highlight is the addition of new and higher taxes. With the financial burdens imposed by the pandemic, more taxes would hurt small businesses and that is not a way to spur economic recovery. We need to increase awareness about legislative actions that lead to tax increases and more spending.

I worked hard to inform legislators and the public on the importance of maintaining a balanced budget. We reached lawmakers with our debt studies and members of the public with our robust financial education initiative and the digital learning modules that we brought online as a free resource for all ages. The goal is to help people improve their financial knowledge, because with great financial knowledge comes greater financial capability.

Originally, I never thought I would be a state treasurer. I am certainly glad that I took the opportunity to run for this office and serve Washington to the best of my ability as a dedicated financial professional.

Anyone that knows me is keenly aware that I maintain a strong interest in history — especially Washington state history. This interest has helped bring me an even greater sense of accomplishment as I reflect on the history we made here in the office during my tenure.

I am grateful for my time here and for the excellent staff assembled in this office who help safeguard state finances every day and provide top-notch financial services to our local partners. Together, the staff and I have implemented some big changes that will truly improve the state’s future financial position. I am looking forward to a smooth transition as office staff members continue to administer programs of importance.

Looking ahead, I leave much of that work in the capable hands of the Treasurer’s Office staff, who carry on the humble challenge of public service as guardians of Washington’s tax dollars. Serving the state of Washington over the last four years has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

This is my last communication as your state treasurer, as I head into the next chapter in my life. Future posts will be from your next state treasurer, the Honorable Mike Pellicciotti. Best of luck to him in all his endeavors as state treasurer.