© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'We are not day traders': Connecticut's new treasurer, Erick Russell, talks about his plans

Erick Russell, candidate for the Democratic nomination for state treasurer.
New Connecticut State Treasurer Erick Russell

As the first Black and openly gay person elected to statewide office in U.S. history, New Connecticut State Treasurer Erick Russell says, "I look forward to the days when we aren't celebrating these things as a first."

Speaking on Connecticut Public's "All Things Considered," Russell said that among the tasks he and his team have focused on in his first three weeks in office has been setting the strategy for moving the state's pension fund forward. Another item of focus has been setting the Treasurer's Office legislative agenda for 2023. Of note, Russell said "Baby Bonds is an item we continue to further."

The legislature approved the Baby Bonds Program back in 2021 as a way to give savings bonds to low-income children at birth. But The Connecticut Mirror has reported that top Lamont administration aides have tried to kill the program. Russell says that while he has heard concerns about the way the reported $600 million program will be funded, he's hopeful the program will go forward.

"We'll be meeting with commissioners and agencies that have a relevant role in the Baby Bonds Program ... and in the implementation," Russell said. "So, we're coming into this from a very positive perspective."

Russell is also waxing positive about his office's Unclaimed Property Program. The Connecticut Mirror reports that from 2000 to 2021, the Treasurer’s Office collected more than $2.3 billion dollars through that unclaimed property program -- but returned less than 37% of that property to the lawful owners. Despite the fact that the unclaimed money and property eventually gets melded into the state’s general fund and into public financing for political campaigns, Russell rejects the idea that these facts serve as a "conflict of interest" style deterrent to the state doing everything it can to get property back to rightful owners.

"I don't have a conflict with respect to wanting money to go back into the budget," Russell said. "I think in terms of how assets are distributed, I think that's something to discuss with the legislature."

In fact, Russell says measures the Treasurer's Office has put in place to publicize and streamline the Unclaimed Property Program have resulted in the number of claims coming in to "really multiply." Russell said one of his goals for 2023 is to further streamline and automate the claims process. "I'm looking at technology improvements right now," Russell said, "so that we can turn some of these claims around without as much manual review and processing."

One thing the new steward of Connecticut's finances is not particularly worried about is today's challenging investment environment.

The S&P 500 Index is down 7% in the last calendar year -- just one indication that investment profits are harder to come by.

"One of the big pieces here is that this office is about investing long term," Russell said. "We are not day traders."

John Henry Smith is Connecticut Public’s host of All Things Considered, its flagship afternoon news program. He's proud to be a part of the team that won a regional Emmy Award for The Vote: A Connecticut Conversation. In his 21st year as a professional broadcaster, he’s covered both news and sports.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.