A Republican candidate for state treasurer said people should vote for him because of his experience and vision for investing state funds, and also criticized the Bank of the West’s move against the fossil fuels sector.
Sen. Leland Christensen, R-Alta, came through Laramie on Friday during his campaign to secure the Republican nomination for Wyoming Treasurer. Since there are only Republicans running on the ballot for the office, the winner of the primary on Aug. 21 will likely secure the position.
It is important to build up infrastructure throughout all the state’s communities, Christensen said. Not only through water and sewer lines, but also by providing stable internet to all parts of Wyoming. He said a great way to build up the infrastructure would be through increasing investment revenue.
Christensen said using the process Wyoming Constitutional Amendment A set up will help the state generate more revenue. Amendment A gave the legislature the ability to put more money towards investments, including money from the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account, also known as the rainy-day fund.
As treasurer, Christensen said he would direct more investment in the stock market. He said investing in bonds would actually be riskier. Bonds return less on investment, and while the stock market can be volatile at times, it consistently grows. Christensen said the state could potentially see up to an extra $1 billion over three years with a better investment strategy.
“We don’t want to just get by,” Christensen said. “We want to do better and we can do that.”
According to the Wyoming State Constitution, the Legislature must keep a balanced budget, and it has been using the rainy-day fund throughout the past several years to do so. The fund won’t last forever, he said, and putting the money to work generating more revenue will help stabilize the state. So, when the mineral market goes down, the state will not be exposed to the swing, he said.
Wyoming’s government collects all taxes within Wyoming and gives out the share for each city and county. Christensen said with increased revenue from investment, cities such as Laramie could see their distributions increase. He also talked about how better investment strategies from the treasurer’s office could help the University of Wyoming.
Christensen said the funds for the Hathaway Scholarship account have steadily been falling. He said under his watch, a better rate of return on the money from the fund will keep the scholarship going on indefinitely.
Bank of the West announced this week it will stop investment in fossil fuels. Christensen said the bank should not be using their customer’s money in activism, especially when the state the customers live in relies so heavily on fossil fuels.
His experience as a county commissioner and a state senator will aid him in the treasurer’s office, Christensen said. Current Wyoming State Treasurer Mark Gordon and former Treasurer Cynthia Lummis, both Republicans, both asked him to run based on his experience, Christensen said.
Previously, Christensen worked in law enforcement for 20 years at the Teton and Lincoln County Sheriff’s offices. Before that, he was part of the Army National Guard and Special Forces. Christensen said his experience will help him create and lead a great team in the treasurer’s office. Christensen made an unsuccessful primary bid for the U.S. House in 2016, but lost to now U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming. He came in second in a crowded primary field with 19,330 votes compared to Cheney’s 35,043.