Nebraska State Treasurer John Murante is campaigning for re-election.
Ahead of Tuesday’s primary election, Murante visited the Grand Island Independent for an interview. Murante is facing challenger Paul Anderson at the polls.
Because the office is term-limited, if re-elected, this would be Murante’s last term.
The top priority for the treasurer is overseeing the treasury management division, explained Murante.
“When the dollars are not ready to be spent, it’s sent to the Nebraska Investment Council so they can invest the dollars accordingly, but it requires good management and a trustworthiness of somebody who’s not going to mismanage or misappropriate dollars,” he said.
Managing federal American Rescue Plan Act funds received by the state has been a “unique” experience, said Murante.
“Never in the history of Nebraska have we had so much cash on hand as a state,” he said. “We are at about $7.5 billion in cash right now. Typically, before the pandemic hit, we’d be in the $3.5 to $4.5 billion range. So we’re way above normal. And we haven’t even gotten our second bash of $500-million plus dollars that’s coming from the federal government.”
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The funds arrive also at a time of economic prosperity for Nebraska.
“Between the federal funds and the tax receipts consistently coming in over expectation, it’s been an interesting time,” said Murante. “If you’d have told me at the outset of the pandemic, when businesses were being shut down, that in a matter of months we would see record-level tax revenues, I never would have believed it. I don’t think anybody predicted that that would happen.”
Important to Murante is preserving the state’s College Savings Plan program. NSET 529 “does so much good for so many people” and he called it “one of the best college savings programs in the country.”
“We’re consistently rated in the top three of college savings plans. Under my management of the program and as trustee of the program, Morningstar, who grades and ranks such things, has upgraded our ranking, which was fantastic,” he said.
Federal over-reach remains a concern for Murante.
“We never heard from the Trump administration at the state level,” he said. “They just left us alone to make financial decisions that are in the best interest of our constituents.”
This has not been the case under President Joseph R. Biden’s administration, Murante said.
“From the very outset, they started pressuring financial institutions to divest and not lend to fossil fuel companies, oil and gas, and they started pressuring states to not to business with financial institutions that lend money to oil and gas,” he said. “That was one of the first stages of the war on the energy industry, and one of the causes of drilling going down and the price of gas going up.”
Murante is one of a group of state-level treasurers and auditors “pushing back” against such directions, he explained.
“We’ve fought back and said, as a state, I can’t make financial decisions and base contracts on political motivations. That’s not what I do,” he said. “I’m statutorily prohibited from it. Even if I agree with the politics I still can’t make decisions on that basis.”
A massive administrative turnover will occur at the state-level this year, with a new governor, lieutenant governor, auditor and attorney general coming in, noted Murante.
“I hope to get re-elected so I can provide a resource for them, and for the people of Nebraska to identify the specifics of state finances and deliver additional meaningful property tax relief,” he said. “I’ll work in any way I can with the new administration to do that. Every day, we take the role of managing the state’s tax dollars very seriously.”
The 2022 primary election will be held in Hall County on Tuesday, May 10.
For more information on voting and polling locations, visit www.hallcountyne.gov.