History of creating lasting legacies
Jan. 25, 2022 (Little Rock, Ark.) – When Treasurer of State Dennis Milligan sets his mind to something, failing is not an option. So when he was elected Treasurer, he set out to make his mark among the nation’s top elected financial officers.
“I’ve been one of the most active treasurers in the last two decades,” Milligan said.
Milligan recently finished serving as Regional Vice President of the National Association of State Treasurers and was the 2021 National Chair of the State Financial Officers Foundation. Both positions were peer-elected.
“I’ve enjoyed getting to know my colleagues from around the country through these organizations and truly feel it has made me a better treasurer for the people of Arkansas,” Milligan said.
It was because of his involvement with the State Financial Officers Foundation that he was able to expand a financial empowerment conference from Idaho and kick off the nationwide tour of the Smart Women Smart Money conference in Arkansas.
“Arkansas ranks third worst in the nation for both women’s unemployment and earnings as well as poverty and opportunity. So when my former colleague in Idaho, Ron Crane, mentioned that he wanted to expand Idaho’s Smart Women Smart Money program nationwide, I jumped at the chance to host it,” Milligan said. “We were actually the first state in the country outside of Idaho to host this conference, and we just wrapped up our third annual symposium last year.”
Milligan also set new records with the Arkansas 529 Education Savings Plan that the treasury administers.
The Arkansas 529 plan is an education-savings account that offers parents up to $10,000 in state tax deductions for their contributions. Beneficiaries use the money for a variety of expenses to further their education, whether that be at a traditional four-year university or a technical or trade school.
“Since I took office, we’ve increased awareness of the program by 30% and have grown the program’s assets by more than 120%,” Milligan said, adding that the plan’s assets now total more than $1.2 billion – a record high. “We have taken a plan that few people knew existed and have turned it into a household name.”
With the growth of the program, he was able to create an industry-leading mobile app that Arkansans can use to view their accounts.
“We created the first mobile app in the country for a state-run 529 program, offering account information to Arkansans through the device that, as statistics show, is always within reach: A smartphone,” he said. “Since then, other states around the country have followed suit.”
To date, 27 other states’ 529 programs have incorporated a mobile app.
Perhaps one of the most challenging times of leadership during Milligan’s tenure has been navigating the state through a global pandemic. The treasury serves as the state’s bank; it’s main job is to ensure that the state’s bills are paid.
“When the pandemic first reached Arkansas, my office was faced with making sure the state had enough cash on hand to weather what was then an unknown economic future,” he said. “We devised innovative ways to keep the office running and communication between us and the agencies we serve top-notch.”
A creative response to the pandemic, Milligan created a remote check-deposit program that provided safe interaction for both his staff and agency representatives. As an added result, it also created a more efficient way of running the treasury’s Receiving division.
Milligan’s leadership during the pandemic allowed the state to endure a difficult economic climate while still building up its reserves.
“I have done my best in working with state and national financial leaders to make this office a positive example that other states can model,” Milligan said. “As with any administration, we’ve endured some great times and some tough times. It has not always been easy, but it has always been worth it.”
Dennis Milligan was elected Treasurer of State in 2014 and re-elected in 2018. The State Treasury is responsible for overseeing the state’s $5 billion portfolio. Since taking office in 2015, Milligan has receipted the state more than $442 million in investment returns and has grown the investment portfolio’s receipts to record highs. www.artreasury.gov.