Democratic treasurer nominee Zach Conine – The Nevada Independent
This is one installment in a series of “On the Record” articles highlighting the political positions of the candidates for the main offices in the 2022 election in Nevada. Check back in the coming days and weeks for additional coverage.
Zach Conine doesn’t hold back when asked about his accomplishments.
The first-term treasurer says he’s been helping thousands of businesses stay afloat with grant programs and creating and managing the state’s rental and mortgage assistance programs — all while a pandemic that has uprooted daily life around the world.
“Over the past three and a half years, we have objectively been one of the most skilled and successful treasurers of all time,” he said.
Conine, who narrowly won 6,000 votes in 2018is challenged in his re-election by Republican candidate, Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore.
Treasurers serve four-year terms with two-term limits. The statewide elected officer is responsible for investing state money, funding community assets and facilities, processing payments for public agencies, and administering numerous scholarship programs .
During his campaign, Conine received support from people from all political backgrounds, including former Amy Tarkanian, Nevada GOP Chair.
“The reason we get such cross-party, cross-party support is because most people know treasurer is a job you want someone skilled at,” Conine said in an interview with The Nevada Independent. “And most people want a treasurer who has a moral compass that isn’t questionable.”
Below is a summary of Conine’s interview with The Nevada Independent.
Facing the pandemic
Conine said the biggest challenge his office faces is navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the crisis, he had to make sure Nevada’s financial structure was ‘sound’ in a time of uncertainty – balancing the state’s finances $9.28 billion budget and making sure “the bills are paid” while juggling new routines at home. Her daughter was attending first grade online at the time.
“It was a weird time that we had to live in, but we got through it and made sure Nevada never missed a single payment we had to make — never bounced a check,” Conine said. “One of my big lessons from the pandemic … is that Nevada very often bounces back quickly. We’re getting the jobs back, we’re getting the tourism dollars back.
Even so, he said the situation made him think “Nevadians need to be a little less resilient and the government needs to be a little more efficient.”
At the start of the pandemic, the CARES Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) was launched by the Office of the Treasurer and the Office of the Governor to help financially challenged Nevadans pay their rental, housing and utility bills. . The breakdown of housing assistance payments by demographics from January to December 2021 reveals that 47% of funds went to black or African American households in Nevada, followed by 33% to white households and 16% to households latinos. from nevada population is approximately 10% Black or African American, 73% White, and 30% Hispanic or Latino.
Between March and December 2020, the state also distributed more than $108 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) in aid to landlords, rentals and utilities. Since then, the state has received two more packages to continue funding housing assistance through 2025, bringing Nevada’s total to $500 million. By March, $323 million had been disbursed.
“In Nevada, housing instability is economic instability,” Conine said. “The biggest hurts, the deepest cuts of the last recession came about because people in Nevada lost their homes and their credit was destroyed. And then their credit was destroyed for seven years and it was back to normal in 2019, and then they got hit again.
Conine said one of the biggest lessons learned from the pandemic was to identify the benefits of two broad categories of government programs — those set up like “mazes” (with barriers in place so that only people who need the help receive it) and those established as “funnels” (allowing almost everyone to receive the benefits).
“We’ve had a lot of mazes in this pandemic. We need more funnels,” Conine said. “I think the Rental Assistance Program has gone from a maze to a funnel and it was a decision we made internally that made it more efficient… And there is some common ground too . You don’t want programs set up in a way that encourages fraud.
As someone who helped administer much of the federal COVID relief money, Conine said it was a “mathematical certainty that pumping that much money into the economy” would lead to inflation.
But it was a decision that had to be made, he said.
“Were we going to take an active role in the fight against the economic devastation that was right in front of us, or were we going to do nothing? Conine said. “We were trying to save small businesses and we saved a lot. We couldn’t save everything. We were trying to get people back to work and now they’re back to work. Yet there are industries that need help. This work is not binary.
The US inflation rate is at a 40 years talland in response, the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates in recent months, creating fears that if it raises rates too aggressively, it could dampen economic growth and trigger a recession.
Asked about the possibility of a recession, Conine said Nevada is in its “strongest financial position” since becoming a state.
“We have more cash in the bank, we have more opportunities ahead of us, and we are more determined to invest in things that will actually provide long-term or recessionary forces protection as opposed to short-term,” he said. he declared. “Less band-aids, more fixing the underlying problem.”
Conine said the “underlying problem” is that Nevada remains too dependent on the cyclical tourism industry. But he noted that economic diversification is a “long-term job” and rests on other facts such as affordable housing and a labor-producing education system.
“There is no one magic bullet for economic diversification,” he said.
But not all companies and industries are worth investing in, he said, and that includes companies that make assault weapons. Conine led the charge on Nevada divesting these companies, saying “we’re constantly looking to put our money where our morality is.”
“Yes, there is a moral decision there. I’m a father of three kids who are in elementary school, the same age as those kids who were massacred in Texas, and we have to figure out as a society that we don’t want to live like this,” Conine said. “That aside, these are risky investments, and my job as the state’s chief investment officer is to avoid unnecessary risk.”
Some Democrats have criticized the Biden administration’s federal student loan relief plan for failing to address underlying issues with college affordability. Conine agrees, but also says it’s a good start.
“I think these criticisms are valid. And I think that’s not to say the program was a good or a bad idea. I think it’s a good idea,” he said. “But we are dealing with a symptom as opposed to the underlying root cause.”
The Treasurer’s Office administers education savings plans, including what is known as 529 programs, consisting of Nevada’s Prepaid Tuition Program which allows parents to lock in current college tuition rates in the state and contribute monthly installments into the fund, and of five programs administered by University Savings Plan partners, in which account holders can deposit after-tax money for future college savings. The office also operates the Nevada College Kickstart initiative which awards each public school groundskeeper a free $50 scholarship to encourage parents to start saving for the student’s future education, and the Governor Guinn Millennium Scholarship which awards up to $10,000 in tuition to in-state students who attend a university or college in Nevada.
The office also educates parents and students on higher education loans and opportunities such as Cancellation of civil service loans Program (which allows certain borrowers who work full-time for an eligible employer to be reimbursed the remainder of their balance.)
Additionally, Conine said his office will continue to have conversations with the governor, members of the Legislative Assembly and officials of Nevada’s higher education system to ensure the grants and scholarships serve their purpose. , reach the people who need it and are used effectively.
“It’s an opportunity for us to extend this work to this group of people. It’s helping lift generations out of poverty in an absolutely fascinating way,” Conine said. criticism of the student loan relief program… In this case, there are thousands of Nevada families who will be better off after loan forgiveness than they are now.”