Treasurer candidates compete to manage NM’s money

By Gavin Moughan

The state treasurer is New Mexico’s chief banker, managing and investing the money used to run state government. It’s an essential job with a history of problems: In the early 2000s, two state treasurers served prison time on corruption charges.

Former treasurer Michael Montoya pled guilty to extortion in 2005, and racketeering in 2007. He spent four years in prison. In 2006  Robert Vigil was convicted on an attempted extortion charge, which led him to spend two years and two months in federal prison. 

What qualities make a good state treasurer? “I have three words for that: accountable… …transparent …fiduciary,” said Ryan Knight, a lecturer in accounting at the University of New Mexico.

Democrat Laura Montoya says she would bring relevant experience to job because she is the only candidate who has managed funds for government entities. 

Republican Harry Montoya says his candidacy is motivated by his opposition to the idea of creating a public bank. A public bank wouldn’t replace existing credit unions or banks, but instead the state would deposit revenue into the bank, earning interest, and lend out money to local individuals and organizations.

A public bank would be a “new, enormously powerful bureaucracy” and “another step toward socialism,” Harry Montoya told the Santa Fe New Mexican.

The idea is “half-baked,” “dicey” and “risky,” Santa Fe New Mexican columnist Milan Simonich argued while the idea was in front of the Legislature last year.

Others argue a public bank would spur local economic development. “If we perpetually sell out our state to the special interests who oppose a public bank, such as payday lenders and the global banks, we would be shooting ourselves in the foot during a time when we need solid footing more than ever,” columnist Doug Lynam wrote in the New Mexican.

Laura Montoya has said she’s not completely sold on the idea, but she’s intrigued and would like to explore it further.

Laura Montoya served two terms—eight years—as Sandoval County treasurer. She was the executive assistant to Douglas M. Brown when he was state treasurer and has represented county treasurers at the state Legislature, helping to pass more than 20 pieces of legislation, according to her website.

The Albuquerque Journal endorsed Montoya saying, she has more experience. “As a former Sandoval County treasurer for eight years, Laura Montoya has considerable experience investing public money, and has held other positions that prepared her to be the state’s chief financial officer.” 

She also has the support of former state Treasurer Doug Brown and 11 current and former county treasurers. 

The Santa Fe New Mexican endorsed Montoya, too, saying, “Her familiarity with the operations of the office will serve her well as treasurer.” But the paper also suggested that her opponent, Harry Montoya, should run for a local office because he would provide good competition.

Republican Harry Montoya has served in public office as a Santa Fe County Commissioner Pojoaque school board member. He has also served on a variety of boards and committees mostly related to education and substance abuse prevention.

He is the founder of the nonprofit Hands Across Cultures, which provides intercultural leadership opportunities to young people in Northern New Mexico.

On Harry Montoya’s personal webpage he pledges to “ensure that your tax dollars to the State of New Mexico are legally spent, in accordance with our state’s Constitution.”