Andrei Cherny and Doug Ducey want voters to know that the job of state treasurer is much more than keeping track of Arizona’s dollars and cents.
Beyond that, however, the candidates have differing visions for the office, which they outlined during visits with the East Valley Tribune’s editorial board last week.
Cherny, the Democratic nominee, boldly states on his campaign website that part of his job will be “setting an economic strategy” for the state. The former state assistant attorney general and economic policy adviser for the Clinton administration feels that audits of state government are necessary to find waste.
“I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about what a treasurer does,” Cherny said. “He’s not the guy with the green eye-shade sitting in the room with a ledger book, making sure the columns add up. The things I’m talking about doing have been different that what has happened, but they are not different in what the law says the treasurer can do.”
Ducey, a Republican, aims to rely on his business experience — the CEO of Cold Stone Creamery from 1995-2007, he oversaw its growth to 1,440 stores worldwide — to manage Arizona’s $10 billion investment portfolio and attract new commerce to the state.
“My claims are credible,” Ducey said. “I have the ability to communicate with executives of companies and build the relationships to attract those companies to come to Arizona. There’s no reason this isn’t possible.”
Treasurer “should be the most nonpartisan” statewide office, Ducey said.
Regardless of political agenda, the task will be a challenging one. Arizona faces a budget deficit of $825 million for the current fiscal year, up from previous estimates of $700 million. The deficit for the next fiscal year could be as high as $1.4 billion.
Both candidates said that things could get worse before getting better and that the state is at risk of insolvency.
“We haven’t been fiscally responsible,” Ducey said. “But the problems are fixable.”
Ducey frowned on Cherny’s audit plans, saying that role belongs to the auditor general and, if need be, the Attorney General’s Office. He said that “a government official auditing other officials” is not a good idea.
Cherny countered the auditor general is an appointed position, and that someone accountable to voters needs to examine the state’s books.
“No one, whether the auditor general or anyone else, has looked at spending in the governor’s office or Legislature in more than a decade,” Cherny said. “I think we all can list off examples of bad spending from both entities.”
Ducey also wants to shed light on the state’s transactions and avoid “accounting gimmicks,” making budget data more accessible and clearer to Arizonans, particularly on the state’s AZCheckbook.com website.
Cherny pounced on reports that Ducey did not pay 2008 and ’09 property taxes on his Paradise Valley home until May, shortly before launching his campaign, and that Cold Stone Creamery and its subsidiaries had repeated late report filings during his tenure as CEO.
A for the property taxes, “they were paid in full, but they were late,” Ducey said.
“It was for a property I was not living in. I’ve admitted a mistake, it won’t happen again, and I can promise voters that, if I’m elected, the guy who handles my home bills will not be the same guy who handles the state’s bills.”