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Meet Roby Smith & Mike Fitzgerald, running for Iowa state treasurer in the 2022 election midterms

Des Moines Register 10/7/2022 Des Moines Register staff

Two candidates are competing to represent Iowa as state treasurer, the state's chief financial officer, responsible for leading the office that maintains state funds and acts as the state's bank.

Longtime incumbent Democrat Mike Fitzgerald is running against Republican Roby Smith, a small-business owner and state senator.

To help voters, the Des Moines Register sent questions to all federal, statewide and Des Moines area legislative candidates running for political office this year. Their answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

In the lead-up to the 2020 election, all eyes are on Iowa. Get updates of all things Iowa politics delivered to your inbox.

More: A guide to voter rights in Iowa. What you need to know before you cast a ballot

Early voting begins Oct. 19 for the Nov. 8 election.

Who is Mike Fitzgerald?

Age: 70

Party: Democrat

Where did you grow up? Colo

Current town of residence: Waukee

Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration, University of Iowa

Occupation: State treasurer

Political experience and civic activities: Treasurer of state since 1983. I have been actively engaged in government and the political process my entire life.

Who is Roby Smith?

Age: 44

Party: Republican

Where did you grow up? St. Louis

Current town of residence: Davenport

Education: Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, minor in communication, Concordia University, Nebraska

Occupation: Small business owner

Political experience and civic activities: State senator (2011-current), chairman of Senate State Government Committee, member of Quad Cities US Bank Board of Directors, member of Scott Community College Foundation Board and Junior Achievement instructor.

What do you see as the primary role of the state treasurer’s office? How would you help it achieve that mission?

Fitzgerald: The primary role of the state treasurer is to act as the state’s banker, and our mission is to keep the money safe. My approach has been consistent: uphold professional standards, focus on efficiency and promote fiscal responsibility. Another role I have championed as state treasurer is finding ways to provide meaningful programs such as the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt, College Savings Iowa and IAble. In my next term, I will continue to advocate for Retirement Savings Iowa, a program to help all Iowans gain access to a retirement plan through the workplace if their employer does not provide one.

Smith: The treasurer’s role is to ensure taxpayers’ money is kept safe, invested wisely, earns the best possible return and is readily available to fund essential government services. As a former banker, state senator and member of the US Bank Board of Directors, I have the knowledge and experience to do the job. I know how hard Iowans work for their money. That’s why I reduced spending and balanced the budget — every year — and helped pass the largest tax cut in Iowa history. As treasurer, I will continue to be a fiscal hawk, ensuring taxpayers’ money is safely and wisely invested.

More:What Iowa secretary of state candidates Paul Pate & Joel Miller say about voting, elections

What policies would you pursue in office to safeguard Iowans’ tax dollars?

Fitzgerald: As state treasurer, I have worked to ensure Iowa gained and continues to maintain its AAA credit rating. Just as a high credit score benefits an individual, a AAA credit rating confirms that Iowa has our financials in order. As state treasurer, when investing the state’s idle funds, the first priority is safety. The next two are liquidity to ensure the state can make payments and finally rate of return. In August we made our first investment in Israel bonds as a safe, stable and secure way for Iowa to grow its funds and diversify its investment portfolio.

Smith: As treasurer, I will protect Iowa taxpayers’ bank accounts. President Biden's administration proposed a rule allowing the IRS to look into any bank transaction of $600 or more. Many state treasurers agreed with me that this was a huge invasion of privacy — and helped defeat it. My opponent sat back and did nothing. We need a treasurer who will stand up and fight such intrusive policies. I will be that treasurer. Safeguards include hiring smart, experienced people who know the job, establishing systems and processes to protect taxpayer dollars, and monitoring investment policies and procedures to ensure all laws are followed.

More:Where Deidre DeJear, Rick Stewart & Kim Reynolds stand on key issues in Iowa governor race

How can you ensure the IPERS system is managed sustainably?

Fitzgerald: IPERS is a solid, actuarially sound public retirement system for teachers, correctional officers and other public employees. As the custodian, a trustee and fiduciary, I will continue to support investments that focus on the sustainability of the system. There are more than 350,000 IPERS members and they are relying on a long-term plan to ensure their retirement benefits. In fact, over 88% of the $2.4 million IPERS payments in FY21 were paid to retirees residing in communities around Iowa. I will continue to stay vigilant, knowing there are groups that want to change the structure of IPERS.

Smith: Iowa’s hard-working public employees provide essential help to taxpayers. IPERS must be fiscally and actuarially sound, so it is there when they retire. As treasurer, I will ensure our Investment Board is comprised of diverse financial experts with success and experience in institutional investing. I will work with the Investment Board to ensure we hire the best actuaries and partner with experienced investment management firms. I will ensure IPERS’ sustainability by overseeing its investment policies to ensure Iowa is making the soundest investments with the greatest returns, while also maintaining a diversified portfolio to mitigate risks and protect taxpayers’ money.

More:Meet Christina Bohannan & Mariannette Miller-Meeks, running for Iowa's 1st Congressional District

How would you help Iowans take advantage of state programs to save for college and other life expenses?

Fitzgerald: In 1998, I started College Savings Iowa and today thousands of families have used their savings to pay over $4.5 billion in education expenses for their children and grandchildren. In April, I announced the ninth price reduction in 16 years. Five years ago, I started IAble, a program for persons with disabilities to save for disability-related expenses. Last year, I worked with the legislature to eliminate the Medicaid recapture barrier. As we identify additional barriers, I will work to break them down. I will continue to ensure that Iowans have access to low-cost high-value savings programs.

Smith: As a state senator, I helped pass the law requiring financial literacy be taught in schools. As treasurer, I will make it a priority that our children are taught budgeting and saving for the future. There is currently very little effort in educating the next generation on fiscal issues from the state treasurer. I will travel our state promoting college savings plans and IAble plans, along with the first-time homebuyer savings plan I wrote and passed in the Iowa Senate. This law allows family members to use tax-free dollars to help children and grandchildren afford a down payment on their first home.

More:What the 3 candidates running for Iowa's 4th Congressional District say about abortion, guns

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This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Meet Roby Smith & Mike Fitzgerald, running for Iowa state treasurer in the 2022 election midterms

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