Intersections: A monthly go-to for reliable facts and analysis about California's debt, investments and economy

Treasurer’s Office Firsts in 2016: A Year of Accomplishments

By John Chiang
California State Treasurer

The State Treasurer’s Office racked up a number of remarkable firsts in 2016.

First, we laid out a strategic plan by publishing our first biennial report entitled "Building California’s Future Begins Today." And, then, we went to work -- fully accomplishing nine of the 16 tasks we set out to do.

Last year I asked my staff to work “better, faster and smarter” to more efficiently serve taxpayers and create greater opportunities for the people of California. They met the challenge and will keep pace in 2017.

2016 was a phenomenal whirlwind of activity. We made great strides toward modernizing our historic role as the state’s banker, handling $2 trillion in annual transactions.

But we also pushed the traditional boundaries of our office. We issued bonds and tax credits to build a record number of affordable housing units. We looked for new ways to finance the battle against climate change. We provided capital to build schools and universities, expand both small and large businesses and make life easier for retirees, the disabled and college students.

Here are some of my office’s major achievements in 2016:

  • Designed and successfully helped shepherd into law the Secure Choice Retirement Savings Plan for workers without access to employment-based pensions or 401(k) benefits. It is the biggest change in retirement since the passage of Social Security in 1935.
  • Boosted the investment portfolio of the ScholarShare college savings plan to more than $7 billion and introduced the nation’s first-ever gift card feature at Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us stores.
  • Served as the agent of sale for over $21 billion of long-term new money and refunding bonds. Saved the state General Fund $1.8 billion by refunding existing, higher-interest securities.
  • Provided financing for retrofitting of more than 10,000 heavy-duty diesel trucks to significantly reduce harmful air pollution.
  • Led the country in placing economic sanctions on Wells Fargo Bank in response to its setting up thousands of phony consumer accounts.
  • Financed an 80% jump in the construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing units.
  • Went online with a modernized system for managing transactions at the Local Agency Investment Fund.
  • Created a break-through database – the California Business Incentives Gateway – to provide businesses with one-stop searching for state and local government economic development incentive programs.
  • Sponsored a new law imposing the nation’s most robust transparency requirements on fees paid by public pension funds to private equity investment firms.

This year already is shaping up to be just as productive with a whole new batch of Treasurer’s Office "firsts." We will be moving steadily toward full implementation of the Secure Choice plan and a new CalABLE program offering tax-advantaged savings for disabled people without them being threatened with loss of important health and welfare benefits.

We also will be implementing new policies and initiatives to further increase the state’s affordable housing stock.

Our goal, as always, is to operate the State Treasurer’s Office in an efficient, innovative and transparent manner that enriches the lives and provides opportunities for all Californians.