\TORRINGTON – State Senator Leland Christensen stopped at the Bread Doctor in Torrington last week, wanting to meet Torrington’s residents and answer any questions they may have about his run for the office of Wyoming State Treasurer.
Christensen’s great-grandfather rode in on a horse to Teton County in 1903, where he started the family farm. Growing up in agriculture, Christensen still has some of the family farm. He was in the military for 15 years, a law enforcement officer for 20 years, a small business man, a county commissioner and a State Senator for Teton County.
Eight years in the senate, Mark Gordon asked Christensen last fall if he would consider running for State Treasurer. Former treasurer Cynthia Lummis told Christensen, “Leland, we need you to do this.” Then she laid out why it works, why we need to do it.
His skill set working with people, building teams is what is really critical for the office it is about managing and working. They looked at my background in business and in the military and public service, they said, he has the right kind of credentials to make this work and take it to the next level which is what we need.
“The top priority is to increase our investments returns. We are the smallest state in the nation, population wise, have the third largest wealth fund in the nation and we have been very conservative on our investments,” Christensen said. “Some investment have performed well and some have not. We have not had to put it to work because of the minerals industries, but now with the down turn in the minerals industries this is our opportunities to put our investments and our treasury to work and get the returns that are available for us.”
Over the last four years in the legislature, Wyoming budgets have been balanced by using some of the savings, he said. Christensen believes, if Wyoming keeps doing this, the state will run out of savings and be in a tough place. By increasing investments returns, the state won’t be relying on living on the treasury savings and also stop the talk of installing state taxes.
“Today, and in the last couple of years, there has been a constant conversation in the legislature and across the state about what we need to do in raising taxes,” Christensen said. “I am a strong believer that if we do a better job with our treasury we can avoid this tax talk. Whether it is a sales tax, income tax, property tax or service tax. We need to play to our strengths.”
With $20 billion in the treasury and the right team, the state can do better. Cynthia Lummis, past treasurer said, you wonder why and how this part has to do with the constitutional amendment that Wyoming voted on two years ago.
A lot had to do with acid allocation and having the right team in the treasurers office being more responsive to the markets and being more prudent.
“We do not want to risk our treasury but we can do better on our investments it will be the key to keeping Wyoming income tax free,” he said.
The reason Christensen is running for treasurer is he is an absolute believer that the state does not need to get into this taxing conversation. “If we build on our strength and do what we should be doing we can stay away from taxing,” he said.
Amendment A, which can change the amount the state treasury can invest in the markets, “coming out of the bond market and going into more of the stock market. Bonds are very safe but are close to flat lining. With the rate of inflation, you don’t lose anything fast but you lose the chance for gain. You look at the Index 500 ,there is a continual climb and there has been for 100 years. There are ups and downs in it but if you are careful, we can take advantage of those increasing markets.”
The history in Wyoming being very conservative has been in the bottom quartile in performance for the last one, three, five and 10 year measurements. By changing our assets allocations, bringing it up 50 percent, it can provide another $300 million a year into the states treasury.
“This is how the state can solve the education funding crisis, take care of the states seniors and not by raising taxes,” Christensen said.