Vivek Viswanathan for Treasurer

Democrats running for Treasurer include Fiona Ma, current member of the Board of Equalization and former assemblymember, and Vivek Viswanathan, former advisor to Governor Jerry Brown and Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign. Viswanathan combines detailed policy knowledge with a refreshing, pragmatic platform to make a compelling candidate.

Viswanathan’s platform includes progressive stances like public financing and green energy, as well as less widely-discussed policies like seeding college funds for babies. He also seeks controversial but important reforms around Proposition 13, the mortgage interest deduction, and public pensions. A Stanford JD/MBA, the San Jose Mercury News said after their discussion with him, “none [of his three serious opponents] is as articulate and thoughtful about the challenges the next state treasurer will face.”

The Treasurer sits on the two largest public employee pension boards, making their stance on this issue core to our financial solvency critical. As of December 2017, CalPERS — California’s largest public pension system — had a $153 billion unfunded liability. Combined with other state pension systems, California’s total unfunded pension liability well exceeds its entire state budget of $180 billion, a fact which contributes to our poor credit rating: only two states are rated worse. Many California cities are in similar or worse situations. Rather than banking on overly rosy growth, we should pay public employees higher salaries so that they can invest for their retirement as workers outside the public sector do: through savings and Social Security retirement (which we can also expand). We must chip away at our broken system which borrows from the future to avoid politically challenging budgetary issues.

Ma is in denial about pensions. As an assemblymember in 2010, she authored a bill that would have legitimized illegal spiking of retirement pay and removed public access to public employee pension records. Today, she opposes Governor Brown’s effort to make pensions adjustable, and has repeated a false talking point that the state should only have to fund pensions at 80 percent. Past legislative achievements listed on her website — in lieu of a future-looking platform — do not counteract the poor judgment demonstrated on this issue.

In supporting Brown’s push toward flexibility and opposing unrealistic growth projections, Viswanathan shows the courage and knowledge to make progress in this important arena. This willingness to take on tough issues combined with vision and background as a trusted policy wonk makes Vivek Viswanathan the clear choice for Treasurer.

Economist. Founder and president of the UBI Center. Studied at MIT and UC Berkeley. YIMBY. Former Google data scientist.