Nevadans elected a new state treasurer in 2018.
Las Vegas businessman Zach Conine, a Democrat, will be tasked with a variety of jobs, ranging from college scholarships to managing state investments.
"The opportunity to work for Nevada as the chief investment officer really appealed to me because a lot of the things the treasurer does are things I do in my daily life in the private sector," Conine said. "I wanted to take some of that experience, and bring it to Carson City.”
One of Conine's main goals is to expand current programs aimed at helping Nevadans save for higher education, and shore up funding for an important state scholarship fund.
"One of our goals is to come up with a permanent funding solution for the Millennium Scholarship, which I think is the single greatest tool for expanding educational opportunity in Nevada’s history," he said.
The Millennium Scholarship program was set up after tobacco companies settled a series of lawsuits from states, including Nevada. Now, more people are going to college & using the scholarships, and fewer people are smoking.
Conine said both of those are good things, but impact funding for the scholarship. He plans to take some of the money the state gets back from investing money from the general fund and funnel it into the scholarship.
He hopes to eventually create an endowment to keep the scholarship afloat for years to come.
"I’m a big proponent of, if something works, to make sure it is still there in the future,” he said.
Investing is really the treasurer's main job. Conine explained the state invests taxpayers' money into secure, low-risk investments like bonds. He sees no reason to change that approach. In fact, the state is not allowed to buy stock from specific companies.
"The goal is to fund opportunities for the state to invest more efficiently," he said. "The goal is to let the professionals in the investment office do what they’ve been doing for generations now, and to look for other ways that the treasurer’s office can help encourage businesses to come to Nevada."
The man Conine is replacing -- outgoing treasurer Dan Schwartz -- was not known for working behind the scenes. He made headlines when he presented his own "alternative budget" during the 2015 legislative session and he was an outspoken critic of tax abatements to bring businesses to the state.
He was most outspoken about the tax incentives package offered to Faraday Future, a car company that was supposed to set up shop in North Las Vegas.
It turned out that the company was in a dire financial situation, and didn't set up a plant in Southern Nevada.
Conine said he thinks Schwartz should have spoken up about the problems he saw with Faraday Future, which proved to be true. However, he says he has a less confrontational style than his predecessor.
"The treasurer should exist to serve the state," he said. "Sometimes that means being vocal about things, and sometimes that means providing information in a humble, effective manner.”
Providing information is another goal Conine has for the office. He said he would like to provide lawmakers with the financial information they need to make informed decisions.
"I think the treasurer's role […] is how the treasurer can provide information -- economic and otherwise -- to the Legislature, to the governor, to anyone who needs it,” he said.
He would like his office to provide information Nevada needs to make good budget decisions 10 or 15 years down the road, instead just for the next two years.
Conine is already working with Lieutenant Governor-elect, and former state treasurer, Kate Marshall on creating a banking system for Nevada's budding marijuana industry using blockchain technology.
Zach Conine, Nevada state treasurer-elect
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