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Ramsey Congratulates Constitutional Officers on Re-election

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey posted the following two statements to his official Facebook page January 14, 2015:

In regard to the re-election of Justin P. Wilson as the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury: 

Congratulations to Justin Wilson on his re-election as Comptroller of the Treasury. Tennessee’s strong financial position is due in no small part to the work of Justin Wilson. As Tennessee’s money cop, Justin Wilson keeps watch every day to make sure Tennessee taxpayer dollars are being allocated efficiently and that any waste, fraud and abuse is identified and reported. I am extremely grateful that Tennessee will continue to benefit from his expertise, integrity and commitment to service.

In regard to the re-election of David H. Lillard, Jr., as the Tennessee Treasurer:

Congratulations to David Lillard on his re-election as Tennessee’s Treasurer. Tennessee’s retirement system is fully-funded and consistently ranked among the best in the nation. This isn’t just a matter of luck. It is due to the hard work and management skills of David Lillard. The state of Tennessee is extremely fortunate to have David at the helm at the Department of Treasury. I commend my colleagues for returning yet another resounding vote of confidence in his performance.

Lillard Reelected TN Treasurer

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Treasury; January 14, 2015:

Members of the 109th General Assembly reelected, by acclamation, David H. Lillard to a fourth term as Tennessee State Treasurer. The State Treasurer is a Constitutional Officer elected by the General Assembly for a two-year term. In his official capacity, Treasurer Lillard oversees the Tennessee Treasury Department and its more than 250 employees. The Treasury Department internally manages over $45 billion in state and local government funds.

Since he was first elected, Treasurer Lillard has championed issues of financial literacy and has strived to provide Tennesseans with financial tools to lead to a better quality of life, such as creating the Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission and the TN Stars™ 529 College Savings Program. In late 2014, the TNStars™ 529 College Savings program was recognized as one of the top direct-sold plans in the nation based on one year investment performance. The Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission has worked to educate approximately 2,000 Tennessee K-8 school teachers to incorporate the nationally recognized Financial Fitness for Life™ curriculum in their classrooms. Teachers receive training by attending one of the many regional summits held across state. Both the training and the curriculum are provided at no cost to the teacher.

Under Treasurer Lillard’s leadership, the Treasury Department proposed, and the 108th General Assembly enacted, reforms to the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement Systems (TCRS), the state pension plan. These reforms created a hybrid pension plan with cost controls effective for state, higher education and K-12 teachers hired on or after July 1, 2014. The restructured plan has been recognized as an aggressive, innovative reform that substantially reduces the costs to the state while providing a sufficient and sustainable benefit for State and higher education employees, K-12 public school teachers and employees of electing local government entities. TCRS is valued at more than $42 Billion and was recognized by Standard and Poor’s as the sixth best funded public employee defined benefit retirement system in the Nation.

“It has been an honor to serve our state in this position since 2009. With the support of the General Assembly, the Treasury Department has been able to accomplish a lot of great things for our state.” said Treasurer Lillard. “I am honored to serve a fourth term and grateful to the General Assembly for the opportunity to continue to serve Tennessee as a faithful steward of our state’s financial and human resources.”

Treasurer Lillard is active as an advocate for Tennessee’s position on national financial issues that impact our state and our nation through the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST). He was elected by state treasurers across the county to serve as the national President of NAST for 2015. He is the first Tennessee Republican to serve as president of NAST.

Lillard Elected President of Nat’l Association of State Treasurers

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Treasury; September 9, 2014:

Mackinac Island, Mich. (Sept. 9, 2014) – Tennessee State Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr. has been elected by treasurers across the nation to serve as president of the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST). NAST is the premier organization that provides advocacy and support for state treasurers and treasury staff throughout the United States and its territories. Treasurer Lillard is the first Tennessean in history to serve as president.

Treasurer Lillard was elected president at NAST’s annual conference on Monday, Sept. 8. He will serve a one-year term, beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

“I am honored that my colleagues have chosen me to lead this great organization,” Treasurer Lillard said. “For nearly four decades, NAST has been a resource that state treasurers and other top financial officials have used to help them perform their jobs more effectively and better serve their constituents.”

During his term as president, Treasurer Lillard said one of his top priorities for NAST will be continuing the organization’s advocacy to preserve the exclusion from gross income of interest on municipal bonds. If municipal bonds lose their tax-exempt status or the tax benefits are reduced, interest costs on those bonds will rise – increasing costs to citizens for critically needed infrastructure.

“Municipal bonds help pay for schools, libraries, parks and other public infrastructure that are essential to citizens,” noted Treasurer Lillard. “Increasing the financing costs on those projects does not serve the public good. Preserving the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds continues to be a paramount priority for NAST,” he said.

Treasurer Lillard’s priorities also include promoting financial literacy education and programs that encourage retirement readiness.

“State treasurers play a vital role in assisting Americans with retirement readiness,” Treasurer Lillard said. “People are living longer than they ever have before so they need to plan properly in order to live comfortable lifestyles after they leave the workforce.”

Treasurer Lillard believes one of the most effective ways to promote financial literacy is to teach basic money-management concepts and strategies to children while they are young so they develop good habits later in life.

“We need to help people develop good strategies and habits with regard to managing the financial resources that they have,” Treasurer Lillard said.

Treasurer Lillard has served as state treasurer since 2009. During his tenure, he has successfully proposed and the Tennessee General Assembly has adopted legislation that overhauled the state’s pension plan to reduce taxpayers’ liability while still providing fair benefits to employees. He also successfully proposed legislation which became law that requires local governments to pay annual payments to their pension funds deemed financially sustainable by actuaries.

Treasurer Lillard, a graduate tax attorney, practiced tax, securities and municipal finance law for 28 years in Memphis with the law firm of Burch, Porter and Johnson, PLLC. He also previously served as a Shelby County Commissioner and Chairman of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners in Memphis before assuming his current duties in Nashville.

Metro Nashville Teachers Offered Credit Monitoring Services by Treasury Dept.

Press release from the Tennessee Department of the Treasury; December 18, 2013:

Last Thursday evening, Treasury officials discovered that a former Treasury employee for the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System had downloaded a file that included personal information of active Metro Nashville teachers from a work computer to his personal computer.

The investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is ongoing and a report from the forensic examination of his computer and devices is expected soon. The Treasury Department believes this is an isolated incident and that the information has not been shared.

The Treasury Department is providing free credit monitoring services for all Metro Nashville teachers who wish to enroll. The department is engaging a service to provide written notification to each of the teachers affected.

This notification will contain details regarding the free credit monitoring services and a hotline phone number for teachers to call and receive up-to-date information or discuss concerns.

State Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr. met on Monday with the director of Metro Nashville Public Schools and continues to meet with school leaders and teacher organizations to seek their input and to assure all steps are taken to assist affected teachers.

The department has competently handled sensitive personal information in the retirement system since 1945. During Treasurer Lillard’s tenure he has heavily emphasized compliance and security of information and the department has taken numerous steps to continuously and substantially improve security of personal data in Treasury operations.

“Our main concern at this point is to address concerns of active Metro Nashville teachers,” Treasurer Lillard said. “The initial review clearly indicates this occurred due to the actions of one employee who wrongfully downloaded this information. The Treasury Department is immediately implementing measures to correct this isolated occurrence in personal data security.”

TN Dept. of Treasury Alert: Metro Nashville Teacher Consolidated Retirement Data Stolen

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Treasury; December 14, 2013:

The Tennessee Department of Treasury is informing active Metro Nashville teachers about a possible theft of personal information. The department determined on Friday that Steven Hunter, a former Department of Treasury employee, previously sent an e-mail with a Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System file that contained personal information, including Social Security numbers, full names, dates of birth and home addresses of 6,300 active Metro Nashville teachers to a personal e-mail address at an unencrypted personal computer. It should be noted that the personal information of retired teachers in Metro Nashville and active and retired teachers outside of Metro Nashville was not included in the file that was potentially compromised.

Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr. immediately notified law enforcement officials, including the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The TBI took swift action and seized Mr. Hunter’s personal computer and other electronic devices Friday evening at his home. The investigation by TBI is ongoing.

It appears that the contents of the active teacher file have not been disseminated to other people.

“This is a situation we take extremely seriously in the Treasury Department,” Treasurer Lillard said. “This former employee clearly violated Tennessee law and the Treasury Department’s privacy policy by downloading information that is clearly confidential under federal and state law onto an unencrypted computer. I want to thank the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and its special agents for their quick and decisive action which has clearly protected numerous Tennessee citizens.

“We believe this is an isolated incident,” Treasurer Lillard said. “We continually stress to our employees that they must follow department policies and procedures in handling sensitive information collected for the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System. This individual violated the public trust by downloading information to his personal e-mail account, regardless of his intentions.”

The Tennessee Treasury Department will continue to work with law enforcement officials on this matter and will notify all the potentially affected individuals to the extent required by federal law and Tennessee law.

TN Gov’t Leaders Recognized Nationally with Awards, Leadership Positions

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; September 30, 2013:

Tennessee’s state government leaders have gained national acclaim recently being elected or recognized for several national leadership roles. Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and State Treasurer David Lillard have all been elected to bi-partisan national leadership positions, while Speaker of the House of Representatives Beth Harwell recently received a prestigious award by the Women in Numbers organization.

“Tennessee has several rising stars who are now in key positions of national leadership,” said House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada (R-Thompson Station). “This is a tremendous compliment to the caliber of men and women that we have serving the citizens of this state in the Tennessee General Assembly and in our state government.”

The positions include:

  • Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey was elected to the Board of Directors of the bi-partisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) that serves legislators and staffs nationwide with research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues. Ramsey also serves on the Republican Lt. Governors Association Board (RLGA) and the Legislative Leaders Advisory Board of GOPAC.
  • Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris was elected Chairman of the non-partisan Council of State Governments (CSG) which serves all three branches of government in 50 states and Puerto Rico with international affiliates in the Provincial and Federal governments of Canada. CSG fosters and encourages intergovernmental cooperation among its member states.
  • Secretary of State Tre Hargett is President of the National Association of State Secretaries (NASS). The group, which is the oldest, nonpartisan professional organization for public officials, serves as a medium for the exchange of information between states and fosters cooperation in the development of public policy.
  • Treasurer David Lillard was elected to the Executive Committee of the bi-partisan National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers (NASACT), which is an organization for state officials who deal with the financial management of state government.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Beth Harwell was honored with a national “Trailblazer Award” by a nonpartisan group’s Tennessee chapter that encourages more women to go into politics. Harwell is the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives in Tennessee.

“Tennessee’s sound financial footing and reputation for being a well-managed state has been recognized by numerous national organizations,” added Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron (R- Murfreesboro). “We believe we have the finest Treasurer, Secretary of State and Comptroller with Justin Wilson in the nation. Obviously, other states’ leaders recognize this as well. Speaker Harwell, Lt. Governor Ramsey and Leader Norris have also represented Tennessee extremely well in national roles. I am very proud to work alongside them in the General Assembly.”

Local Pensions at Forefront for State Leaders

Some top Tennessee officials say they don’t expect the Legislature to address state employee pension reform at all this year — although retirement plans for some 483 local government groups might get a look.

“There will probably be some bills filed this year, everybody sort of getting on that bandwagon, like, ‘Oh, hey, we just discovered, you know there’s a pension issue,’” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville. “There’s long been a pension issue. But it takes studied work, and it’s technical stuff.”

Lawmakers will be ready to tackle pensions for state employees, including teachers and workers in higher education next year, he told TNReport. That’s just four years before about 16 percent of state workers will qualify for retirement, according to state officials.

Tennessee has fared well compared to other states in terms of funding its pension system — an issue that has captured recent national attention. A recent Pew report found that the state’s pension system was 90 percent funded in the last two fiscal years, well above a widely used 80 percent threshold to measure the soundness of pension plans. By contrast, the plan in Illinois was funded at 51 percent in 2009, a stark reminder that many states have failed to set aside enough money to cover their promised pension payments.

Norris said he is unsure what the future holds for revamping the state’s retirement system but said lawmakers should give serious thought to adopting a program that mirrors a 401(k) matching system, much like what is used in the private sector.

For now, the plan is to target future municipal employees because local governments are “under greater cost pressures than the state is,” Treasurer David Lillard told lawmakers at the Council on Pensions and Insurance meeting Monday.

He is proposing offering those cities, counties, and school districts a variety of adjustments such as changing the retirement age, capping cost-of-living adjustments, capping maximum benefits or pairing supplemental deferred compensation plans with reduced pension benefits. Any changes need to be OK’d by the Legislature and the governor.

His plan would not affect state employees, K-12 teachers, higher education workers or current retirees, he said.

The state runs the Consolidated Retirement System, which handles pensions for those workers as well as the plans issued by some cities and towns.

Guv Opts to Water Down Charter School Bill

Gov. Bill Haslam’s office is introducing a last-minute rewrite on his pledge to give charter schools greater flexibility just as GOP lawmakers start counting down the days until they adjourn.

The changes would give school districts the power to deny charter applications based on their price tags — assuming they can convince the state treasurer that the cost presents a “substantial negative fiscal impact” that the district cannot absorb.

But exactly how those decisions would be made is still up in the air, admitted Sen. Jamie Woodson, a high-ranking Republican and education reform leader pushing the bill.

“The pure definition of what is substantial financial impact is, I will admit…yet to be determined,” she told the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee shortly before the body voted 8-2 to send the plan to the Senate floor.

Republican leaders in both chambers hope to wrap up the year’s legislative session this weekend, although House Chief Clerk Joe McCord said Thursday lawmakers may need a few more days to finish their business. Either way, the governor’s administration is running out of time to tweak the bill.

The price on Haslam’s original charter school proposal, HB1989, slowed the measure down to a halt in both chambers earlier this session, with it sitting for almost two months in the Senate and a month in the House while Democrats wrangled with Republicans and the Haslam administration over details of the bill.

Critics took issue with every major thrust of the plan, including lifting the 90-school cap on the number of charters throughout the state and allowing the state’s virtual school district in charge of turning around failing schools to OK charter applications.

The administration wouldn’t budge much there, or on Democratic efforts to include specific language mandating that the majority of charter school enrollees be at-risk students who come from under-performing schools, struggle academically or come from low-income families. All those issues stayed put.

But the big issue came down to the price tag, and some Republicans split with their caucus and voiced reservation about the local cost of the school choice legislation.

Under the original version, the proposal would have cost local public school districts about $4.3 million statewide by shifting dollars to the independently run public schools when the expansion gets off the ground in 2013-14. But that total would climb to $25 million by 2022, according to the Fiscal Review committee.

The new version of the bill requires local school districts that want to reject a charter proposal to send an analysis to the state Treasurer detailing their inability to “adjust expenses on a system-wide basis due to the transfer of students into the proposed charter school.”

The school district and charter school applicant would both have five business days to send their own analysis of the figures to the treasurer after the district rejects the charter.

The treasurer’s office, now manned by David Lillard, can consult the Department of Education, the local board of education and the charter applicant in deciding the merits of the rejection. It can also ask for outside experts to review the contested financial data, although the final decision must be made within 30 days.

Even if the treasurer strikes down the local school district’s claims about financial stability, the charter school applicant must still contest the school district’s original charter denial to the state Board of Education within five days of the Treasurer’s decision.

The new proposal would cost the state about $50,000 a year in the event the state treasurer seeks outside help weighing the financial statements. Local expenditures in the school districts would be at least $1 million, according to the fiscal note, though researchers admitted they couldn’t pinpoint a specific number because there are too many unknowns.

According to the new fiscal note:

“While the exact fiscal impact is dependent on multiple unknown factors, it is assumed that the (Local Education Agency) will be able to account for half of the shift through normal system-wide adjustments and the net increase in permissive local expenditures is estimated to exceed $1,000,000 statewide.”

The concession won’t water down the bill, according to Will Cromer, the administration’s policy director. Instead, it creates an method for testing whether school districts really can’t absorb new charter schools.

“It creates the process to make that claim, but there’s also a process to evaluate the claim,” he said.

The charter schools bill passed in the Senate committee Wednesday with Democrats Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, and Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Nashville, voting no. Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, was the only Democrat to vote for the bill. In the House, the measure won on a voice vote, although Reps. Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, and Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, expressed dissent during committee discussions.

The debate boils down to a philosophical difference about money following the student, said a lobbyist for charter schools — whether parents or school administrators and educational professionals ought to decide where a child can get a publicly-funded education.

The charter school legislation is one of the signature education reform measures Haslam has presented in his first year as governor, along with changes in teacher tenure law, which Haslam has already signed.

Mike Morrow contributed to this report.
Clarification: If the Treasurer disagrees with the local school board’s assertion that opening the charter school would cause undue financial burden, the charter school must still appeal the local school board’s original denial to the state Board of Education, under the proposed amendment.

Funding Board: State Revenue Should Exceed Last Year’s By At Least 3.9%

Press Release from State of Tennessee; April 15, 2011:

Based on some encouraging economic signs, the Tennessee State Funding Board is projecting modest growth in state revenues for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

On Friday, the board estimated that overall state revenues will grow between 3.10 and 3.35 percent for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The board projected that the growth rate for the general fund balance will be from 3.40 to 3.70 percent above the current fiscal year’s estimated general fund balance, which funds the largest portion of state government expenses.

For the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, the board projected that overall state revenues will be between 3.90 and 4.15 percent higher than the prior year’s revenues.

The board’s projections represent its consensus on the revenue forecast.

Earlier this week, board members heard presentations from economists, all of whom forecast some improvement in the economy in the months ahead.

Board members cited recent increases in sales tax collections as one clear sign the state’s revenue picture is improving.

The board’s revenue estimates are used by the governor, members of the General Assembly and their staffs for budget planning purposes.

Members of the board are Governor Bill Haslam, Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, Treasurer David H. Lillard Jr., Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Finance and Administration Commissioner Mark Emkes.

Wilson & Lillard Rehired; Both Pledge ‘Work’

As expected, Republicans maintained their firm hold over state government today as Justin Wilson was reelected for a second term as the state’s comptroller, and David H. Lillard was also sworn in for a second time as Tennessee state treasurer.

Neither faced an opposing candidate in the joint session of the General Assembly.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Wilson said in his brief address to the joint session.

Wilson recently told TNReport that the overriding concern facing his office is ensuring government “integrity” in Tennessee.

“That is the principle issue, and the one we are most concerned about,” Wilson said.

Lillard focused on the economic crisis in his address, and said that his mission in the Treasury Department was to “work as hard as we possibly can to serve Tennesseans in these times that are trying for many of our citizens.”