State Treasurer Yee talks first-year accomplishments, assisting Yuma
The first year of Arizona State Treasurer Kimberly Yee’s fouryear term wrapped up in January 2020, and Yee stopped by the Yuma Sun offices to reflect on what worked for her and what role she can play for Yuma.
The Arizona state treasurer manages the public money the state collects through taxes and public land sales. Along with managing public money, the treasurer’s job is also to protect and invest the money.
Among the accomplishments Yee highlighted from her first year is the increase in the Arizona Treasury’s assets under management, which represents the value of the investments made with money that the treasurer manages. In one year, treasury statistics say, the value of investments by Arizona’s Treasury has increased by $2.5 billion.
One asset that the Treasury wards and manages is the Permanent Land Endowment Trust Fund, an investment of money collected through the sale of state land. The state distributes earnings from that trust fund throughout the K-12 public education system. According to Arizona Treasury statistics, the value of that trust fund increased by $426 million in the first quarter of 2019, and the amount distributed to K-12 schools in fiscal year 2019 increased by $21 million for a total of $342 million.
Both of those increases happened during Yee’s first year in office.
Yee said part of her mission as treasurer is “to do more with Arizona’s money,” while committing to a financial philosophy she calls “safety before liquidity before yield.”
The treasurer also talked about what she did and plans to do for Yuma as state treasurer. She emphasized that she plans to frequently visit Yuma and stay in close contact with community groups and organizations to know what they want and communicate that across a state level.
“We’re always looking for ways we can partner with local groups in Yuma like the Chamber of Commerce and the [Greater Yuma Economic Development Cooperation],” she said. “Having been a state legislator, we have great relationships and connections. We know that if a need is to be met in Yuma, we can insert that into a discussion in Phoenix.”
Yee pointed out that her first year in office wasn’t confined to her office in Phoenix. She said she traveled to all 15 counties and met with local leaders and groups there. Her intention, she said, is to serve Arizona by paying attention to local needs and how they fit into what she sees at a state level.
“You have to look at pockets of the state individually, not all of them are the same, you can’t talk about them the same way,” she said. “When you mention issues like transportation, it may be an issue in Yuma, whereas it may not be important in more urban areas.”
She said she sees Yuma as a vital economic player for the state, especially when looking at business generated by agriculture. The health of Yuma’s agriculture sector has contributed to her sense of what makes good economic policy, she said.
“Yuma is a critical area for agribusiness,” she said. “We look at the exports and see what it means for international trade and for various states. We pay attention to that when we’re having conversations with business owners and growers, and we’re listening to what works for them.”
Yee still has three years left in office. Her most recent visit to Yuma was part of a tour announcing the passage of a financial literacy bill that would require financial literacy classes in high schools.
ARIZONA STATE TREASURER KIMBERLY YEE discusses her first year in office during an interview in the Yuma Sun newsroom.