Updates in Efficiency, Transparency, Education, Inclusion and Financial Awareness
March 9, 2022 (Little Rock, Ark.) – “Leave things better than when you found them.” That has been Dennis Milligan’s motto since he began his small business nearly 40 years ago, and he has taken that with him in every position he’s held since, most recently when he was elected as Treasurer of State.
“Results matter. And when I took office in 2015, I told my staff to leave no stone unturned when it came to coming up with ways to make the office run more efficiently and transparently,” Milligan said. “Coming in on the heels of a Treasurer who had been convicted of bribery, my main goal was to transform the office back to one that worked for the people.”
Milligan and his team got to work, studying policies and statutes and working with state legislators to update outdated and inefficient procedures within the Treasury. One of those was Act 133 of 2019, which allowed the office to distribute its municipal aid funds via direct deposit. Part of what the Treasury does is take in monies from cities and counties around the state and redistribute them based upon the area’s sales tax rate.
Regarding transparency, Act 882 of 2019 updated current law concerning what the state is allowed to invest in, and revised regulatory requirements that the Treasury seek optimal price and not show favoritism to any one broker. Milligan worked with the legislature and the State Board of Finance – which governs the Treasury’s investments – to implement this change.
The Treasurer’s office also administers the AR Finance AR Future program which promotes financial well-being among all Arkansans, as well as two programs that promote educational savings for school-age children and people with disabilities – The Arkansas Brighter Future 529 Plan and the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Plan.
Regarding the former, Milligan was able to influence several changes to the Arkansas 529 plan, including:
- Creating a state tax deduction for businesses that wish to match their employees’ contributions to an Arkansas 529 plan;
- Introducing a $7,500 tax incentive for people with out-of-state plans when they roll them over into the Arkansas plan;
- Allowing an individual who is able to put in more than the $5,000 yearly maximum to carry forward the tax deduction over the upcoming four years;
- Expanding the plan to include K-12 private school tuition and widening the list of qualifying expenses for which the money can be used, including for apprenticeship programs and to pay down student debt.
The Arkansas ABLE Plan offers individuals with disabilities and their families an affordable way to save for daily disability-related expenses on a tax-deferredbasis, without affecting their eligibility for income-based benefits. It was created by the legislature in 2015 and set under the purview of the state treasury in 2017.
Milligan’s continual work with the legislature helped to pass two acts in 2019 that benefit ABLE account holders and their families. Act 59 of 2019 provided protection for beneficiaries of ABLE account holders prohibiting entities from seeking payment from an ABLE account upon the account owner’s death.
“This legislation was brought to us by those in the disability community upon concern that outside entities would attempt to gain funds from their loved one’s ABLE account should a death occur,” Milligan explained. “This helps protect the hard-earned money that account owners and beneficiaries have put into these accounts.”
Act 825 of 2019 allows for state tax deductions of up to $10,000 on contributions to an Arkansas ABLE account – another reassurance for people these accounts serve. Similarly, Act 882 of 2021 allowed people who are able to contribute more than the yearly maximum in one year to carry that contribution on their forthcoming years’ taxes.
“My intention when I was elected as Treasurer was to try and have the most positive impact on all Arkansans,” Milligan said.
Regarding financial education, one of Milligan’s proudest accomplishments is working with the Legislature in 2021 to create the Arkansas Financial Education Commission (AFEC).
The Commission’s purpose is to promote financial education and awareness to Arkansans in all geographic areas and from all socioeconomic backgrounds.
“I’m so excited to have had a hand in helping create a unified body that will focus on promoting the importance of financial well-being to all Arkansans, regardless of what stage they are in life,” Milligan said.
“I still believe that government should be helping people, and that’s what we’ve done and will continue to do as long as I’m in office. We’ve not only cleaned up the Treasury and made it run more efficiently and transparently, but we’ve created programs for people from all walks of life to help benefit them financially.”
Dennis Milligan was elected Treasurer of State in 2014 and re-elected in 2018. The State Treasury is responsible for overseeing the state’s $6 billion portfolio. Since taking office in 2015, Milligan has receipted the state more than $456 million in investment returns and has grown the investment portfolio’s receipts to record highs. www.artreasury.gov.