Election 2023: Michael Bowman and Mark Metcalf for treasurer

Published 9:20 am Monday, October 23, 2023

This is the third in a series examining down ballot races, which include agricultural commissioner, attorney general, secretary of state, auditor and treasurer.

The state treasurer is responsible for monitoring state investments, overseeing teacher pensions and managing state financial accounts.

They also sit on several boards relating to the lottery, teacher retirement, state investments and higher education. Their job is to ensure state funds are spent legally.

This November, Democrat Michael Bowman and Republican Mark Metcalf are on the ballot.

Bowman was a bank officer for a large financial institution before joining the Beshear administration as a special assistant to Jacqueline Coleman, in her roles as secretary of education and now, lieutenant governor.

During his time in the administration, Bowman has helped oversee a variety of federal grant programs and state appropriations geared towards workforce development.

Metcalf is a combat veteran of Iraq who has spent 30 years as a prosecutor, served in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush and been a judge on U.S. Immigration court in Miami.

He’s also served as county attorney in Garrard County for 22 years.

Why are you running?

Bowman ran for this office four years ago, and lost. He said at the time that he was most qualified for the job, and he thinks the same today.

He added that he would be a partner to Beshear, by being another Democrat in the constitutional offices, instead of an antagonist.

Metcalf said that all of his previous jobs have been fact sensitive and require alertness, and that training lends itself well to the treasurer’s office.

Like current Treasurer Allison Ball, Metcalf is concerned about protecting Kentucky’s coal and fossil fuels.

Bowman’s platform

First, Bowman wants to be the first treasurer in 40 years to have professional training and formal education in finance.

Having someone with the right mindset and tools is “critical” in the next four years, he said, as Kentucky tries to build a new economy based on things like the electric battery plants and manufacturing jobs.

Professional experience will also help on the various boards he would sit on as treasurer, Bowman said.

“When you have somebody who understands investment principles, understands what the process of investment looks like, the necessary cost of that, somebody can actually ask the hard questions, are we spending this money wisely?” he said.

Second, he wants to push policy to increase Kentucky’s revenue without having to raise taxes.

For example, he said he supports legalization of marijuana and expanded gambling and gaming.

“We want to do that in a smart, thoughtful way,” he said.

“We want to ensure that we’re not digging a hole into another problem by opening those revenue streams. So being smart about where that money goes to … so that we that we have responses to potential issues that may come up in the future.”

Third, Bowman said he wants to make the financial literacy requirement established under current Treasurer Allison Ball “more robust.”

He said the curriculum is not consistent across districts, and he wants to set baseline objectives, like being able to balance a checkbook and understanding what credit is and its role in a student’s life.

Metcalf’s platform

Metcalf said the most important job of a treasurer is to ensure the fiscal integrity of the office.

“This role is not one to stir up problems, but one to smooth out any issues so that we don’t have a problem and not provoke litigation unless it’s absolutely necessary,” he said.

However, he is concerned about the ESG movement, an investment strategy used by financial institutions that considers environmental, social and governance factors before investing.

The ESG movement is generally anti-fossil fuels, which is a key reason why several Kentucky Republicans are fighting against it.

Thanks to Ball’s work as treasurer, if elected, Metcalf would be in charge of deciding whether to include financial institutions that boycott fossil fuels in Kentucky’s investment portfolios and pensions.

He also wants to expand financial literacy efforts to the middle school level. He said he would work with the legislature and school boards to build a consensus on what the requirements would be.

Previously, Metcalf has promised to cut Kentucky’s direct obligations in half. He said that he would accomplish this by working with the General Assembly to bring more taxpayers into the workforce and using the current surplus to pay down Kentucky’s debts.

He said he would have to look at the budget and talk to leaders in both parties before making any specific comments on what in the budget could be cut, but would make sure to protect education.

Why are you a better pick than your opponent?

Bowman said that Metcalf isn’t qualified for the job, and that he doesn’t know how he is going to accomplish his campaign promises, which include cutting Kentucky’s direct obligations in half.

“How is he going to cut our outlays without sacrificing the education, the infrastructure, the economic investments that we need to make to ensure that businesses want to come and locate here in Kentucky?” Bowman asked. “He doesn’t tell you that.”

He added that Metcalf doesn’t think about the long term impacts of budget cuts.

“The way I look at it is our budget is a statement of our values,” Bowman said. “At the end of the day, if we need to pave a road we need to pave a road. …We cannot hobble ourselves by undercutting the things that we have to have to be successful.”

Metcalf said that there are some clear differences between him and Bowman.

“My opponent is stated he’s against the (income) tax cuts, and he stated that he is for ESG prescriptions such as those being advanced by say, JP Morgan and BlackRock,” he said. “I’m wholly against them.”