Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

State treasurer candidate Pete Buttigieg makes Chesterton stop

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The greatest difficulty facing Indiana voters in November may not be deciding if the Democratic nominee for state treasurer is worthy of their vote, but perhaps knowing how to pronounce his name correctly.

Hours before addressing the Porter County Democrats in Valparaiso at their meeting on Thursday, the aforementioned candidate Pete Buttigieg (pronounced “Boota-judge” as his website clarifies) stopped by the Chesterton Tribune office for some old-fashioned on-the-road campaigning.

Buttigieg, a South Bend native, is currently unopposed on the Democratic slate which will be voted on at the 2010 Indiana Democratic Convention on Saturday, June 26, in Indianapolis. Buttigieg will be facing current incumbent Richard Murdock for the treasurer seat in this year’s general election if formally selected by the Dems.

This is the 28-year-old candidate’s first time running for public office but he believes he may have a stroke of beginner’s luck by taking a common sense approach to the issues facing state investments.

With a background in finance and economical development, including a degree from Harvard, Buttigieg said he chose to leave work in the private sector at a top consulting firm to help lift the “national emergency” the current economy has dropped on states like Indiana. He said he has seen the effects of economic devastation by travelling to third-world countries and felt there was a lot he could do in his home state to strengthen the economy.

“We need to put the economy first and I’m ready to get my hands in the dirty work,” he said.

Records Transparency

Buttigieg said one of his primary goals would be to find out where the state’s money is being held and foremost make sure that the money is safe. The state treasurer’s fund currently manages $7 billion in up to 74 trusts for the state and Buttigieg said he wants to make sure that money is working hard to build the state’s economy.

“The bottom line is we want to make sure that (money) is in good shape,” he said. Much of that money is put into the state’s General Fund, state pension funds, educations savings funds and recently the Major Moves Construction fund which are all worth keeping watch over, he said.

Buttigieg is striving to increase transparency with investment policy statements and state treasury records in Indiana, although surrounding states like Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan allow transparency. He said he would like the public to be able to view online instead of having to go through the process of a public records request.

The only policy statement currently online is the Major Moves policy, which Buttigieg said he would like to see rewritten to make money safer.

Junk Bonds Not Worth the Risk

Buttigieg said he is taking a hard line with the incumbent Murdock accusing him of investing $300 million of the state’s money in “junk bonds,” or investments that involve a lot of risk of defaulting. Murdock has since appeared in the media denying having invested in such bonds.

The case last year when Murdock attempted to impede bankruptcy proceedings for the Chrysler automotive company by filing a lawsuit to secure some of the dollars for pension funds, involving the Indiana Teacher’s Retirement Fund, the Indiana State Police pension trust, and the Major Moves Construction Fund, has spurred heat in the treasurer race. The case found itself to the doorstep of the U.S. Supreme Court where Murdock’s lawsuit was unsuccessful.

Buttigieg said if Murdock’s efforts are successful, the Chrysler junk bonds he purchased in 2008 for 43 cents on the dollar would have actually come to 29 cents after hearing negotiations between the government and the stakeholders, recovering far less for the pensions.

The blowback could have lost 5,000 jobs for the Chrysler plant in Kokomo in June 2009 when Howard County was already near 20 percent unemployment, Buttigieg said, “close to near-Depression levels of unemployment.”

Buttigieg questions why Murdock made such a “risky” venture, but suspects it was an attempt to attack President Barack Obama’s new bankruptcy policies. Buttigieg saw the attempt as partisanship, a practice he pledges to refrain from if elected.

He sees the job as an administrative and technical role and believes politics should not come into play.

“It’s about keeping the money safe and growing,” said Buttigieg.

Investments Safer

in Local Banks?

With pro-growth statements sprinkled throughout his campaign, Buttigieg believes local economies can grow by promoting cooperation and fair treatment between banks and consumers in deals like mortgage loans.

Buttigieg said one of the adversities for small or local business is getting a loan they need in today’s slump. One remedy in Buttigieg’s noggin is to cut back on having out-of-state banks manage state funds and give some of that money to community banks who show good promise of staying away from “shaky practices.”

“Community banks know the people better. They are better able to gauge risk and better able to lend locally,” he said. “Small businesses can only grow if they get a loan.”

Most of the money now, Buttigieg said, is in accounts of private banks that have retail operations. He said holding banks accountable is an important part of managing the state’s money.

Buttigieg said his office will perform comprehensive risk reviews to better judge which investment managers are the safest.

He said the better the state’s money is managed, the less cuts the state will have to make to programs like education which saw a $300 million cut this year.

Not Too Young To Run

Buttigieg said he does get teased by his peers for his willingness to take on such a large responsibility for his age.

He feels very little concern it will be a factor in the race, pointing out former Indiana senator Birch Bayh as well as his son, former Indiana governor, Evan Bayh both started their political careers around his age and were very successful.

Buttigieg said he hopes he can be a symbol of the “new spirit” taking place in all levels of government by bringing a new energy and fresh ideas.

He said some of his best support comes from retirees who fear the younger generations run the risk of having a lower standard of living.

If Buttigieg wins in November, he will be Indiana’s first Democratic treasurer in over 30 years.

 

Posted 6/18/2010

 

 

 

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