‘Private banker for the state’

Charles Warner Editor

August 28, 2013

UNION — Every year his office handles $42 billion of the state’s money and State Treasurer of South Carolina Curtis M. Loftis Jr. says that’s why he wants that process to be completely transparent and accoutable to the taxpayers.

Loftis visited Union Tuesday during a visit to the Upstate that also included a stop in Laurens later in the day. While in Union, Loftis visited schools and businesses and was the guest speaker at the Union Rotary Club. In his address, Loftis discussed the responsibilities of his office including the large amounts of money it handles every day.

“The treasurer is the private banker for the state,” Loftis said. “The treasurer invests $12 billion of the state’s funds. That $12 billion includes about $4.5 billion in the local government investment pool; the state’s excess cash which is money that has been collected but not spent; the trust funds for long term disability and health care. All in all every night at the close of business it’s $12 billion in our investment account.”

In addition to the $12 billion in investments it makes for the state, Loftis said his office handles $30 billion a year through its checking account for all state agencies and universities.

“As you can see, we have a lot of the citizens’ money,” Loftis said.

Loftis, who is running for reelection, was elected State Treasurer in 2010 and since that time has worked to make the office increasingly transparent and accountable to the public. He began that process by upgrading the resources of the office, a process he said was successful thanks to the hard work and cooperation of the employees.

“When I came into office I inherited 60 state employees,” Loftis said. “We needed to upgrade our skills, we needed to upgrade our computer systems, and all of our internal controls to ensure the money is safe. I’m very proud of what the staff has done. They’ve accepted change, they’ve accepted a new mandate.”

That mandate is for transparency and accountability and Loftis has taken steps to achieve these goals by conducting the first audit of his office since 1988; providing for greater public access to State Budget and Control Board meetings; driving his own car instead of one issued by the state; and posting his entire work calendar and travel expenses as well as important financial reports, records, and documents online.

Loftis, however, said that lack of transparency and accountability in state government remains a problem in South Carolina.

“In state government there’s so little accountability,” Loftis said. “I keep looking for ways to make my office completely transparent and accountable, but my office is only part of the equation. The rest of the state government must become transparent and accountable.”

For this to happen, Loftis said the voters will have to demand it of their political leaders and then see that they carry it out.

“Only the voters can require transparency and accountability,” Loftis said. “Otherwise, the politicians will talk but do nothing.”

Loftis said voters must hold politicians accountable, especially at the polls.

“The first thing they have to do is if they believe their politicians are not transparent and accountable they should send them home,” Loftis said. “The voters are the masters and the politicians are the servants. We should have to prove to the masters that we are worthy of their trust, not the other way around. We are employees and it is our responsiblity to please the boss.”

Loftis said politicians can do this by letting the people know what they are doing, how they are spending the public’s money, and who they receive campaign donations from.

“I put my work calendar, my travel expenses, and my ethics disclosure all on the treasurer’s home page so it can easily be found in one location,” Loftis said. “I want people to see that I work hard enough to earn my salary. I want them to see I travel as inexpensively as possible. I want them to see who donates to my campaign. Only by having all those documents in one place can a voter understand what I do and what it costs. I’m the only statewide officer in the country who does that.

“Politicians shouldn’t be afraid of the truth,” he said. “We should be more than happy to place our information on the web.”

Editor Charles Warner can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 14, or by email at cwarner@civitasmedia.com.