Fitch: Treasurer’s office improves state finances

Published 10:32 am Thursday, July 9, 2015

During a recent joint Lion’s Club and Rotary Club event, State Treasurer Lynn Fitch discussed how her office helps provide for a better future in Mississippi.

Fitch’s office is responsible for the Mississippi Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Plan and the Mississippi Affordable College Savings Program. MPACT allows individuals to lock in current tuition rates through payment plans. MACS is a similar plan that covers tuition, books, supplies and certain room and board expenses and offers five investment options that have varying risk levels. Fitch said that these two programs, which have been offered for several years, help create a brighter future.

“Students whose parents have saved for college in any amount are seven times more likely to further their education,” Fitch said.

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These programs offer a state tax-deductible component that helps to promote the savings.

The treasurer’s office is also preparing students for the future through the TEAM initiative. The program helps create a more financially literate community.

“Most people don’t know how to balance a checkbook or what compound interest is,” she said.

Fitch started the initiative to help combat a statistic a couple years ago that named Mississippi the less financially capable state in the country. The program is available with no costs to schools and teaches students what they need to know about managing their finances.

“It has a significant impact on the financial culture,” Fitch said.

She hopes it helps people avoid wage garnishments, repossessions and foreclosures.

By contrast, she said the importance of the country’s future involves getting a handle on government debt. She said that her office has been able to positively affect Mississippi’s debt by having a “pay as you go” attitude. Her office has gone through some debt restructuring that has led to $60 million in savings.

“Now, they [state legislators] don’t have to appropriate extra money,” she said. “They already have some.”

Currently, Mississippi has a AA credit rating that shows the positive job growth and reliability of the state.

“They like that we have a vision,” she said.

The vision, particularly with high expense departments like the Department of Transportation, includes managing five-year plans to help spread expenses across several years.

However, Fitch said the state’s greatest asset is its people, not a government agency.

“Do you know what your greatest asset is? Your people” she said quoting the credit assessors. “We [the credit assessors] got out there, and we truly enjoyed your hospitality.”

Fitch also explained the state’s unclaimed property program. She said that when companies owe money to residents they are required after five years to relinquish that money to the state. The treasurer’s office then tries to track down the owner to pass along the money.

“I’m the only politician that gets to legally give you money,” she joked.

She estimated that one in five Mississippians had some form of unclaimed property. She said that allows for individuals to then turn around and stimulate the economy.

“Whether it’s $100 or $200,000, somebody’s going to buy something, or maybe they just paid their rent,” she said.

To check whether or not you have unclaimed property, visit the State Treasurer’s website or call 601-359-3600.

Fitch is running for re-election against David McRae (R).