State Treasurer Clint Zweifel (D) was in Warrensburg this afternoon and evening for a few events and interviews. We sat down with him for a conversation at a downtown coffee shop early in the afternoon.
State Treasurer Clint Zweifel (D) in Warrensburg.
Show Me Progress: As you get ready for the two thousand twelve campaign are people aware of what the state treasurer does and the impact that the state treasurer has for Missourians, especially in this kind of economy?
State Treasurer Clint Zweifel (D): I’m confident they are, Michael. And I, and I’m confident that is, that’s part of my goal from day one is to make sure that we bring this office closer to taxpayers, closer to citizens so there’s a real relationship there and understanding of what we’re doing each day. Uh, how we’re helping, uh, create a stronger economy, uh, how we’re creating a stronger entrepreneurial environment for small business and agriculture in the state, uh, what we’re doing to help families save for college and, and critically, what we’re doing to protect our state’s fiscal standing and its triple A credit rating…
…Show Me Progress: And, and part of that, I sometimes think that people don’t really understand that the, the state treasurer has to deal with a large amount of state money and you can basically use that state money in, in a fashion that, that helps the economy of the state. Can you go into some kind of detail about some of the things you’ve been able to do?
Treasurer Zweifel: Sure, I, I think the most important thing that we’ve done from the start is, is to protect the, uh, our fiscal state and keep our fiscal house in order. Because without that we can do none of the other positive things that we’ve been able to work on. So, that triple A credit rating is an important piece, Michael. But I think beyond that, uh, a small business loan program and agricultural loan program, when I came into office, was broken. Uh, it, it wasn’t lending to as many small businesses as it should be. Uh, banks, small community banks, um, and small businesses, and farms weren’t really using the program because it was burdensome, uh, it had a lot of red tape and bureaucracy. Loan approval times took too long. The program penalized businesses and farms that were succeeding as they were growing. So we sat down with Democrats and Republicans, uh, uh, toured the state, uh, talked to small business owners, uh, talked to community lenders, and talked to farmers and said, hey, here’s , here’s what we think we can do, but we gotta get the legislature willing to make some changes to it. Uh, we did that, uh, we had unanimous support on both sides of the aisle for those changes, and now we’ve tripled the number of banks that use the program from about a hundred to three hundred and fifty. Uh, we’ve done eight hundred million dollars in small business and farm loans since I took office. That’s touched about fifteen thousand jobs and farms. So it’s, it’s been a centerpiece of our strategy every day – how can we wake up and try to create a stronger economic environment for familes.
Show Me Progress: And that’s, that’s the benefit of it is that that helps employment in the state and, and helps the economy in general in this state.
Treasurer Zweifel: I think it helps [crosstalk].
Show Me Progress: To be able to do that.
Treasurer Zweifel: Exactly. I think it helps businesses and employment and jobs here and now. And I think, more importantly, for, for Missouri’s long term perspective it’s another tool in our toolbox to create a more entrepreneurial environment. Uh, what we know is that job growth, especially in a recovery and especially in today’s economy, is gonna come from small businesses. And these businesses, Michael, sometimes are a hundred employees or ninety-nine employees, sometimes they’re five employees. Uh, but being able to get out and touch businesses, businesses that don’t get special sessions called for ’em, uh, businesses that really are underneath the radar screen, just who are making ends meet on a, on a day to day basis. Uh, but those are the growth businesses long term and, you know, not only do we need to recruit new business to come in to Missouri, that’s an important piece of this, but we have to acknowledge the investment existing businesses are already making and try to reward that and encourage them to grow organically here in the state.
Show Me Progress: As you go out across the state in various places are you, and you talk to people, voters, uh, what are you hearing, uh, about their views about the economy and government and what do they want? What do they want under their statewide office holders?
Treasurer Zweifel: Well, I think a couple of things. I mean, first, I think what’s happening in Washington is a real frustration for voters on both sides of the aisle. And, and they’re sick and tired of seeing people arguing, uh, and not find ways to get common ground to focus on jobs and the economy as a, as a number one priority. So, and everywhere I go, I was in southeast Missouri just a couple weeks ago, uh, here in, in Warrensburg today, in Kansas City tonight, St. Louis yesterday, Hannibal recently, you know, those comments I get throughout the state everywhere we go is that, you know, they’re sick and tired of people, uh, fighting and not being able to get things done.
Show Me Progress: Uh, so, ultimately what people want out of their government is, they want competence.
Treasurer Zweifel: I think they want, I think they want competence. They want to see, uh, elected officials who are willing to stand up and take risks and be honest with voters. Uh, they want elected officials who are willing to, uh, be able to identify where there can be compromise and what we can succeed with, you know, in a, in an environment where we have Republicans and Democrats sharing power. Well, let’s strategically identify ways where we can work together to get some things done. Uh, and I think small business and college savings for me are, were ideal situations where, you know, we said, hey, let’s, let’s work on some things that we all agree on first and foremost. And that’s what we’ve done.
Show Me Progress: And, and in the, in the present environment, uh, that’s kind of unique isn’t it that, that this was able to happen?
Treasurer Zweifel: Well, I, I think it doesn’t have to be. Uh, you know, you know, people ask how, you know, how we were able to get things done, but I think the key is you build relationships and you, you talk honestly and seriously with, with individuals. And, you know, we, we sat down and, and made both Democrats and Republicans part of this sort of idea early on. Um, so there was real, really a mutual ownership and a mutual responsibility for governance when it came to actually passing it. And I think when you, when you’re willing to give up a little bit of, uh, uh, control and, at least, be inclusive and make sure that both sides, you know, have a piece of, uh, of investment in, in an idea and a concept you get a lot farther.
Show Me Progress: You know, even I, you know, I don’t know, you know, we can’t speak, you know, about the, the process nationally ’cause, you know, we’re not intimately involved in it. Uh, but, you know, we read about what’s going on, we, we see that, that there are people who are adults at the table, that they try to bring what you just talked about to the table and be inclusive with people. And yet in some instances we find that there are people that in, in the position that can make those decisions, aren’t willing to take that step. And, and, it’s sort of curious, it’s like, do they want, is it because they don’t want a label of success bestowed upon everybody or, or somebody else? And, uh, that becomes problem
atic and if the voters, uh, really want things to get done, you know, the blame game for things not getting done becomes sort of a complex part of the mix in, in creating the problem. And, and I guess the question is, you know, you were able to, to a good part of that, you know, get past that. And, and I wonder why others can’t or haven’t been able to.
Treasurer Zweifel: Well, I think, I mean, I think a lot of that is, is coming from Washington and it’s hard for me to speak to the dysfunction that exists there other than [crosstalk]…
Show Me Progress: Yeah, because we’re not there, we’re, yeah [crosstalk]….
The final portion of the transcript will appear in a subsequent post.
State Treasurer Clint Zweifel (D) talking with voters at a coffee shop in downtown Warrensburg.