Election results 2022: Roby Smith defeats incumbent Michael Fitzgerald
State Sen. Roby Smith has defeated incumbent Michael Fitzgerald for a 4-year term as Iowa Treasurer, per a call made by The Associated Press.
Meet the State Treasurer candidates
The treasurer of the State of Iowa is the chief financial officer of Iowa's government. They are elected to serve a four-year term concurrent with the governor's term. The Iowa Treasurer's Office is responsible for maintaining state funds and acting as the state's bank. Democratic incumbent Michael L. Fitzgerald faces Republican challenger Roby Smith.
Michael L. Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald has been Iowa's state treasurer since 1983. Prior to taking office, he worked as a marketing analyst. At age 70, he is the longest-serving state treasurer in the country.
At the Des Moines RegisterPolitical Soapbox, Fitzgerald said if re-elected, he wants to keep pushing the state to establish a retirement program for Iowans who don’t have a retirement plan through their employer.
“With half the people in Iowa approaching retirement age with no pension or retirement benefits, I think it’s a serious problem,” Fitzgerald said. “But we can do things to help Iowans prepare for retirement without costing us anything.”
Fitzgerald said he also wants to try to return matured savings bonds held by the federal government to Iowans.
During his nearly four decades in office, Fitzgerald has created the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt, which seeks to return lost funds to Iowans, and the 529 education savings program. He also manages Iowa’s ABLE plan for Iowans with disabilities.
State Sen. Roby Smith has represented Iowa state Senate District 47 since 2011. Before being elected to the Senate, Smith was a banker in Davenport for nearly 10 years and then became a small business owner.
Smith’s campaign website says he will work to protect Iowans’ financial privacy, improve financial literacy education and will continue to raise awareness for the tax-free college savings program and a savings program for Iowans with disabilities.
Smith's campaign website also says he will ensure no Iowa tax dollars are invested in programs that benefit countries that support terrorism.
College Savings Iowa 529 Plan
During a taping of Iowa Press on Iowa PBS, the candidates discussed management of the College Savings Iowa 529 Plan, which was started by Fitzgerald.
Smith said an investment rating agency gave Iowa’s 529 plan a D grade, and he criticized Fitzgerald for his management of the program.
Fitzgerald said that was due to a misunderstanding about different investing options in Iowa’s 529 Plan, and he expects to see Iowa’s grade go up soon.
Involvement in policy debates
The candidates disagree on how much the state treasurer should try to get involved in state and federal policy matters.
Smith said he would speak up more about policy if he’s elected this fall. He criticized Fitzgerald for not publicly supporting GOP-backed tax cuts.
Fitzgerald said he is focused on the treasurer’s office mission of keeping state money safe.
“If the legislators and governor want to increase taxes or decrease taxes, that’s their decision,” he said. “It’s not something that directly affects programs that we run in the state treasurer’s office, like unclaimed property, or College Savings Iowa, or IAble … that’s the things we register and support. And it’s proven very successful.”
Fitzgerald also said the U.S. Treasury sets federal policy regardless of what state treasurers say.
Smith said he would’ve opposed a Biden administration proposal last year that would have directed the IRS to collect additional information from bank accounts with more than $600 in transactions per year.
“I don’t take this defeatist attitude that a state treasurer can’t affect anything on the federal level,” Smith said. “You have a voice. You have a megaphone. You have the pulpit to do that. You chose not to. I will stand up to the IRS. I will stand up and protect taxpayers.”
Smith and Fitzgerald agree on wanting to protect IPERS, the public employees’ pension fund.
Smith said during the Iowa Press taping that as chair of the Senate State Government Committee, he didn’t advance a bill that would’ve changed IPERS from a defined benefit pension plan. Fitzgerald said he has defended IPERS against attempts to change it.
Fitzgerald said he wants to continue pushing for a state-run retirement plan for Iowans who don’t have a retirement plan through their employer.
Smith didn’t commit to supporting that idea. He said Republican lawmakers helped older Iowans by ending taxes on retirement income, which takes effect Jan. 1.