Arizona treasurer candidates explain their record in debate
PHOENIX — Republican treasurer candidate Kimberly Yee blasted a plan by Democrat contender Mark Manoil to have the state help rural financial institutions do more lending as “socialized banking.’’
During a televised debate Tuesday on KAET-TV, Yee also lashed into Manoil with charges that he has helped evict families from their homes and his own foreclosure and vehicle repossession proves that voters should not put him in charge of an office that manages nearly $15 billion in assets.
Manoil responded that Yee, who as a state legislator has supported multiple tax cuts for Arizona corporations, is someone who is only “trusted by lobbyists.’’ Those tax cuts, he said, have made the state far too dependent on sales taxes which now fund more than 45 percent of the state budget, compared to just 2.4 percent from corporations.
“He doesn’t want voters to know what he does to earn a living,’’ Yee said. “He steals people’s property when they fall on hard times.’’
“Of course not,’’ Manoil responded.
“I enforce property taxes against people who don’t pay them,’’ he said. “It’s largely speculators or abandoned properties that are the subject of these things.’’
Pushed by moderator Ted Simons on whether he has been involved in forcing families from their homes, Manoil said it has occurred perhaps two or three times in the 26 years he has been in the business.
Yee then pushed deeper into Manoil’s personal life, citing his loss of a home to foreclosure and repossession of a vehicle.
“So you can’t even manage your own personal finances yet you want to manage the $15 billion,’’’ she said.
“At the time of the Great Recession I had a foreclosure and I bounced back from it, just like many Arizonans,’’ Manoil responded.
“I came back stronger and I’m strong now,’’ he continued. “This is a silly attack, a personal attack that you’d expect from a career politician who kind of considers the advancement into this office the next step in her career that she’s entitled to.’’
Yee insisted that bringing up Manoil’s financial history is not a “personal attack.’’
“Voters need to know if you can’t manage your own personal finances,’’ she said. “Even back in the time when all of us were in that recession, some of us planned for it.’’
Going directly to the role of the treasurer, Manoil said the office should be using at least some of those resources to directly help Arizonans.
What Manoil said he has in mind is having the state partner with banks and credit unions in small communities, something Yee said amounts to a state-run government banking system.
“This is socialized banking,’’ she argued.
“It does not compete with them but rather enhances their credit-granting capabilities,’’ Manoil said. The result, Manoil said, is greater access to loans by individuals, entrepreneurs and even local governments seeking affordable loans for infrastructure projects.
“I’m actually talking about is banks in towns that have been abandoned by the banks,’’ he said.
Yee pursued the issue, saying that Manoil would use some of the dollars under the control of the treasurer for “social justice’’ programs, though she provided no specifics.
“Oh, you don’t think social justice is something we should be concerned about?’’ he said.
“Not in the treasurer’s office,’’ she shot back. “There’s no return on your investment for the taxpayer dollar.’’
And Yee said if Manoil wants to help set policy he should instead be running for the Legislature.
“The treasurer’s office is not a policy-making office,’’ she said. “You manage the office for safe and prudent investments, not on these types of fluffy programs that feel good to people.’’
Manoil said every elected leader, including the treasurer, has a duty to serve constituents. And he said the idea of partnership banking is “an explicit choice not to continue entrusting all of our state monies to Wall Street bankers who had a fabulous run with our monies.’’
“They are not lending back into Arizona,’’ he said.
Yee defended lending her campaign $400,000, first to defeat Jo Ann Sabbagh in the GOP primary and now in her general election race.
“This job is a job I know well,’’ she said, having worked for Dean Martin when he was treasurer. “To manage nearly $15 billion in assets under management takes someone you can trust, someone who understands the office and will uphold the position with honesty and integrity.’’
Manoil sniffed at that qualification.
“I don’t have the experience of being the public relations flak for the treasurer’s office,’’ he said. What experience she does have, Manoil said, is as majority leader in the Republican-controlled Senate, a Legislature “that has left most Arizonans behind.’’
The winner of the election will replace Eileen Klein. She was appointed treasurer earlier this year after Jeff DeWit, who worked in 2016 on the national Trump campaign, quit to take a job as NASA’s chief financial officer.
Klein is not seeking to retain the post.