Tag Archives: treasurer

State treasurer offers savings program for the disabled

A new Tennessee program is now available to help people with qualified disabilities and their families or legal representatives save, invest and earn money tax-free to fund allowable expenses such as housing and health needs.

Further from the Times-Free Press:

State Treasurer David Lillard said Tennessee is among the first states to offer an Achieving A Better Life Experience program.

The ABLE Tennessee program, administered through the Tennessee Department of Treasury, is designed to help people with intellectual and physical disabilities save with no impact on federal means-tested benefits so long as the 401k-style investment accounts are less than $100,000.

It is expected to help people and families with problems in areas ranging from Down syndrome to military veterans left physically devastated by war-related injuries.

To qualify, officials said, the disability must have been present before someone’s 26th birthday.

Moreover, individuals must be eligible for either federal Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits based on blindness or disability. Or, they can join by having a qualified physician provide a disability diagnosis.

The accounts can be opened by family members or other legal representatives and accept investment money not just from them but other relatives, including grandparents, and friends, officials say.

“Families are so ready to open these accounts,” Lillard said last week at a news conference rolling out the program, made allowable under recent changes to federal tax law. “The Tennessee Treasury team has put together a very high-quality savings program.”

Hargett gets a new spokesman; now all 3 ConOs have their own PR person

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Secretary of State Tre Hargett has named television reporter Adam Ghassemi as his new spokesman, completing a process in which all three constitutional officers have appointed their own communications director instead of using a joint one.

Ghassemi, who most recently worked for WTVF in Nashville, succeeds Blake Fontenay, who was originally hired to be a spokesman for Hargett, Comptroller Justin Wilson and Treasurer David Lillard.

Wilson has since hired former WZTV-TV reporter John Dunn to be his communications director, while Lillard has brought on former WTVF marketing consultant Shelli King to be his spokeswoman.

Fontenay was paid about $68,000 per year to be the spokesman for all three constitutional officers, while the three new communications directors earn a combined $239,000. King is the top earner among the three, with an annual salary of $95,000. Ghassemi will be paid $79,000, while Dunn earns $65,000.

Fontenay, a former reporter for the Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis, is moving to the Tennessee State Library and Archives. He will serve as spokesman and coordinator for the Tri-Star Chronicles project, which will record the life stories of Tennesseans who made a key impact on the state’s history.

Lillard, Wilson get new terms as state treasurer, comptroller

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A joint session of the Tennessee House and Senate has approved new terms for two of the state’s constitutional officers.

Comptroller Justin Wilson and Treasurer David Lillard were elected Wednesday to their fourth two-year terms. Wilson, Lillard and Secretary of State Tre Hargett were each first elected in 2009 after Republicans gained control of the Legislature.

Hargett is in the middle of a four-year term so he didn’t have to stand for re-election.

Wilson is a Nashville tax attorney who as an aide to then-Gov. Don Sundquist was a prominent supporter for a failed effort to impose a state income tax in 2002. Lillard, of Germantown, is a former member of the Shelby County commission and a financial and tax attorney.

Note: Here is the full text of Wilson’s acceptance speech, as provided by his staff:
“We have work to do. God Bless the State of Tennessee”

The somewhat longer news release from his office is below.
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ConOs now have three PR people instead of one

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s secretary of state, comptroller and treasurer are abandoning an effort to use one communications officer to speak on all three constitutional officers’ behalf.

Treasurer David Lillard announced Friday he has hired Shelli King, a former marketing consultant at WTVF-TV in Nashville, to be his chief spokeswoman. Comptroller Justin Wilson previously hired former WZTV-TV reporter John Dunn to be his spokesman.

They assume their duties from Blake Fontenay, a former reporter for The Commercial Appeal newspaper of Memphis, who will continue to be a spokesman for Secretary of State Tre Hargett through the end of the year.

The three Republican constitutional officers were first named to their positions by a joint convention of the state Legislature in 2009.

Treasurer Pushes Change in State Retirement System

Tennessee may be contributing much less to state employee retirement accounts in the future based on a state plan to convert to a defined contribution plan, reports the Commercial Appeal.
State Treasurer David Lillard will unveil details of his proposed revisions to the state pension plan Monday, and the state legislature will consider the changes with bills sponsored by Rep. Steve McManus, R-Memphis, and Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge.
Lillard’s proposal will change — for future hires only — the pension plan from a defined-benefits plan to a hybrid plan that includes elements of defined-benefits and defined-contribution programs.
Defined-benefits plans guarantee retirees a fixed pension benefit based on their years of service and earnings, while defined-contribution plans do not have guaranteed payment levels but rather specified contribution levels by the employer. The benefit payments may rise and fall with their underlying investments.
The state’s pension plan is part of the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System, established in 1972 and which today covers state government workers, employees of the state’s public higher education system, local public school teachers statewide and employees of about 485 towns, cities, counties, utility districts and other local entities that choose to participate in the state-run plan. All nonstate entities pay their own costs.

Senate Republican Caucus Goes to Haile (as treasurer)

Senator Mae Beavers was ousted from her role as Republican Senate Caucus Treasurer today in leadership elections, according to TNReport. The other Senate GOP caucus elections kept leaders in their roles, including Ron Ramsey, who will be the GOP’s nominee for lieutenant governor and Mark Norris as majority leader. (News release posted HERE.)
The new treasurer will be Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin.
The caucus treasurer plays a key role, particularly in election years. That person has check-writing authority and can send campaign cash to key members fighting to keep their seats or snatch away Democratic ones.
…The Senate vote, in some ways, mirrors last month’s House Republican leadership vote. The only contested race in that race was for the Speaker Pro Tem, the House’s number two spot. Rep. Judd Matheny lost that race to Rep. Curtis Johnson.
Those losses may pull the curtain back a bit on what has appeared have been a united Republican Party since the GOP won supermajorities in both Houses. Both Beavers and Matheny endorsed Lou Ann Zelenik over incumbent US Rep. Diane Black in the 6th Congressional District race. Black has many friends in the General Assembly, where she served in the House from 1998 to 2005 and in the Senate from 2005 until her Congressional win in 2010.

Note: Haile was named to replace Black in the Senate on an interim basis when she won the seat in Congress. He did not seek election to a full term until this year, when redistricting left the seat without an incumbent. (Sen. Kerry Roberts found himself in a new district with Sen. Jim Summerville of Dickson.)

State Offers ‘TNStars’ College Savings Plan

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A new college savings plan in Tennessee aims to help more students afford a higher education, state officials announced Tuesday.

Gov. Bill Haslam, joined by the state treasurer and both legislative speakers, announced the “TNStars College Savings 529 Program.”

The governor called the plan a “great opportunity for Tennesseans who want to attend college.”

“There are a lot of issues around why Tennessee is behind the national average in college attendance and college graduation, but affordability and access is at the heart of those issues,” he said.

The plan takes its name from section 529 of the Internal Revenue Service code, which authorized the creation of tax-advantaged plans in 1996.

To encourage enrollment in the program, Tennesseans who open accounts with at least $50 will receive a one-time $50 match from the state. Those who roll over their account balances from other 529 college savings plans, including the state’s prepaid plan, will get $100.

The program also offers federal tax-free earnings if the money is used for higher education expenses, and low fees that compete with some of the top-rated plans in the nation.

The state is spending more than $3.3 million to market the program, including payment to a private marketing firm and television ads.

“In this highly-competitive and changing economy, it is important that we keep our children focused on achieving a higher education and post-secondary education that qualifies them for the 21st century specialized workforce,” said state Treasurer David Lillard.

About four years ago, the state partnered with Georgia to start a college savings plan that allowed families to put away money for their children’s higher education expenses.

The new one is specific to Tennessee and allows participants to control how they manage their investments. The plan has an age-based option in which investments are more aggressive when children are young and become more conservative as they approach college age.

Rich Rhoda, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, told The Associated Press earlier this week that the new program is more viable.

“There has been one (college savings program) in place in Tennessee over the years, and this is basically breathing new life into it,” he said. “This is where families can start saving for their children’s, grandchildren’s college education way ahead of time. It’s a safe investment.”

Mark Schneider is vice president of the American Institute for Research and the author of a recent study that examined how much graduates from Tennessee’s colleges and universities earn their first year in the workforce. He said Tennessee’s new plan is a good idea.

“It’s all about college affordability and debt,” he said. “So, as colleges become more and more expensive, parents and students are looking for more and more ways to finance college. And the 529 plan is one way of trying to accumulate … the money that you need to send your kid to school.”

Note: News release below.

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