Four candidates are running for Missouri state treasurer in the Nov. 3 general election: incumbent Republican Scott Fitzpatrick, Democrat Vicki Englund, Libertarian Nick Kasoff and Green Party candidate Joseph Civettini.
Fitzpatrick, of Cassville, was first appointed state treasurer in 2018, following Eric Schmitt's appointment as attorney general, after serving on the Missouri House of Representatives.
Fitzpatrick said one of his priorities will be to improve transparency by continuing to expand the Show-Me Checkbook, a financial data transparency portal he launched this year that shows local government expenditures. The first step is continuing to add more counties to the database, he said.
"Once we get the counties that are all willing to participate, once they've signed up and we have their data, we'll start working on other units of local government to try to improve transparency," he said.
Another goal of Fitzpatrick's is to reduce reliance on student debt and fund higher education opportunities for Missourians.
"We're in a situation where we have kind of a student debt crisis, and so taking care of that by encouraging people to save earlier in life has a compounding effect because the savings they make will obviously generate a return on average over time," he said.
Fitzpatrick said he hopes to open a 529 Plan, which is an education savings account, for every child in Missouri.
"The data shows that families that have those accounts started for them are far more likely to begin saving for higher education than our families who don't have that already created for them," he said.
Fitzpatrick also would like to pass legislation to allow low-income students and students with special needs in failing or provisionally accredited school districts to go to other school districts through education savings accounts funded by contributions from individuals and corporations.
"Giving kids the opportunity to get a quality education is something that, honestly, is a civil rights issue to me," Fitzpatrick said.
Englund, of St. Louis, owns an online retail business. She has served on the St. Louis County Economic Council and has worked for the Small Business Administration, where she wrote legislation and monitored bills for small businesses.
Englund said her main priority if elected will be getting Missouri's economy back on track and helping small businesses that are struggling.
"The first thing is really getting COVID under control because you can't really have a large or small business if people are afraid to go to that business," Englund said. "A lot of small businesses are really struggling in the state, and there's a lack of leadership at the top."
Another priority of Englund's would be to invest taxpayer dollars into companies that have the same values as her.
"I would take a look at the companies in which I will be investing your taxpayer dollars and looking at those companies' diversity statements, sustainability statements and what types of companies share my values when it comes to inclusion and diversity," she said.
Englund said ideas to get Missouri's economy back on track include making Missouri more LGBTQ-inclusive, investing in the arts, addressing the COVID-19 funding gap with minority business resiliency grants, and addressing COVID-19 through Medicaid expansion.
As state treasurer, Englund said, she would give guidance to municipalities and make the federal CARES Act funding distribution process smoother to ensure the money goes to health departments and places that need it the most and that have a clear plan for how the money will be used.
"I think it's important that the person dispersing those funds understands the needs of the communities and understands that communities of color are at a higher risk when it comes to COVID and have been hit harder than other communities," she said.
Kasoff, of St. Louis, is a tax practitioner and IT consultant. If elected, one of his priorities would be to propose the addition of a check box on tax returns so people can authorize that their name, address and Social Security number can be shared with the state treasurer to determine if they have unclaimed property.
"That way, if you've got a bank account that you forgot about that got turned over to the state, when you file your taxes in April the state would immediately know who and where you are and they'd be able to cut you a check instead of that money sitting there for sometimes decades unclaimed," he said.
Kasoff said he would like to end the Missouri State Treasurer's Office's sweepstakes for the Missouri's 529 Education Plan program where people can enter to win scholarships in a drawing.
"We obviously want to encourage people to save money for education; we obviously need to have this program, but to have a lottery as a publicity stunt to get the state treasurer's name out there is just not a good use of taxpayer funds," he said.
As a Libertarian, Kasoff said, he believes the State Treasurer's Office should be run in a non-partisan way.
"The State Treasurer's Office will be run in a non-partisan way that's best for the people of Missouri rather than to benefit one party or the other," he said.
Kasoff said he would also limit the mail the State Treasurer's Office sends to save money and the environment.
"Every time the state sends out any piece of mail, there's a cost and there's an environmental impact," he said. "I think one of the most important things the state treasurer can do is minimize the environmental impact of that office."
Civettini, of St. Louis, did not respond to multiple attempts by the News Tribune to be included in this article.
Civettini is a control systems engineer and has been a member of the Gateway Green Alliance/Green Party of St. Louis since 1999 and treasurer of the Missouri Green Party since 2009. He has been the Green Party committeeman of St. Louis' 8th Ward and treasurer of St. Louis' Green Party Central Committee since 2012, according to missourigreenparty.org.