treasurer

Tennessee launches app to manage 529 college savings plans

A release from the state Department of the Treasury:

NASHVILLE, TN – The Tennessee Department of Treasury annually recognizes 529 Day to raise awareness of the importance of saving for a child’s future education. May 29 is nationally recognized as 529 College Savings Plan Day, and it’s an excellent time to become a TNStars College Savings 529 account holder!

When you become a TNStars customer, you will have another useful way to put college savings in the palm of your hand, with access to the new ReadySave529 education savings mobile app. TNStars partnered with Ascensus financial services to offer the app, which makes it easier to view your account balance and investment allocation, contribute funds, and see how your savings compare to peers. It also makes it even easier to invite family and friends to make gift contributions to your child’s account.

So, what is a 529 Plan? It’s named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code that authorizes tax-free status for qualified tuition programs. Earnings in 529 plans accumulate on a tax-deferred basis and distributions are not taxed federally when used for qualified higher education expenses. A 529 plan can be used to pay for college costs at any qualified college nationwide.

With TNStars, a parent, grandparent, family member, employer, or friend can make gift contributions to an account. Earnings grow tax-free, and money can be used for tuition and fees, room and board, books, computers and more. The Tennessee Department of Treasury monitors the plan’s investment options and works to keep costs low so families can save even more.

Families can visit tnstars.com to open an online account in minutes with as little as $25. Once you open a TNStars account, the app is available for download in the Apple and Google Play app stores.

“May 29 is an excellent annual reminder of the importance of saving for a child’s future in a 529 college savings account, such as TNStars,” said State Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr. “With the mobile app, we can provide technology to better connect TNStars customers to their accounts. That’s something worth celebrating on 529 Day.”

Join the conversation about 529 Day and the new app by following TNStars on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (#529Day).

Democrats call on Tennessee to divest McDonald’s shares

The state Capitol on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Democratic Reps. Yusuf Hakeem of Chattanooga and Joe Towns of Memphis are calling on state Treasurer David Lillard to divest Tennessee of its $80 million worth of shares in McDonald’s after 77 African-American former franchisees sued the company for allegedly denying them the same opportunities as white restaurant owners.

Here’s the letter Hakeem sent to Lillard this week:

Dear Treasurer Lillard, 

I write to concur with the request made of you by Representative Towns in September of this year to reconsider the Tennessee Treasury’s investment in McDonald’s stock. The allegations in the amended complaint filed against McDonald’s on behalf of 77 former Black franchisees are disturbing, and even more troubling is the significant decline in the number of McDonald’s Black franchisees. I share the concern expressed by Representative Towns’ that the Tennessee Treasury currently holds nearly $80 million of McDonald’s stock and I likewise believe we should use this moment to take a stand for racial equality and divest our state’s stock in McDonald’s.

Studies have shown that income inequality leads to higher rates of health and social problems. While these former franchisees sought to achieve the American dream and financial security, McDonald’s allegedly took steps to ensure that African-American owners were not afforded the same opportunity to succeed at the same levels as White franchisees financially. The State of Tennessee should not support any business that systematically engages in harmful practices to Black business owners and further widens the income gap. Sadly, the company has a well- documented history of racial discrimination and based on the allegations in the lawsuit; they still have much work to do. Until McDonald’s takes steps to correct its misdeeds, Tennesseans should not reward the company by holding onto nearly $80 million in its stock. Please call me at your convenience to discuss.

Sincerely,

/signed/

State Representative Yusuf Hakeem

Tennessee to allow weed investment to go pot

The “policy implications” of the state’s retirement fund’s investment into a company operating in the marijuana sector has Treasurer David Lillard ordering the shares be sold, according to a report by Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

That’s despite a 26% gain in share price of San Diego-based Innovative Industrial Properties Inc. since the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System’s small-stock fund bought 7,009 shares in April or May.

The company is a real estate Investment trust that bills itself as the “leading provider of real estate capital for the medical-use cannabis industry.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Tennessee was among more than dozen states that stood to benefit from Illinois’ new recreational marijuana. Illinois is one of 11 states where Innovative Industrial Properties does business.

Michael Brakebill, the pension fund’s chief investment officer, told the Times Free Press that the investment into the company was part of a small-company stock index the state created.

Lillard said it’s difficult to evaluate every stock that’s part of an index, but that “we’ve got to figure out a way to do that and deal with it because it highlights the fact that you know what you’ve got in portfolio.”

The investment in Innovative Industrial Properties is worth about $720,000 out of the state’s $52 billion retirement system.

“The bottom line is I have ordered Michael and his staff to sell this investment, and we won’t have it after today or tomorrow, whenever the transaction goes down,” Lillard told the paper.

Tennessee lawmakers have balked in recent years to join states legalizing medical or recreational cannabis.

 

TN comptroller, treasurer, secretary of state seeking new terms

The state’s three constitutional officers – Comptroller Justin Wilson, Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Treasurer David Lillard – are all planning to seek new terms in office when the Tennessee General Assembly votes to fill the positions in January, reports the News Sentinel.

Hargett and Lillard have been widely expected to go for new terms, though there has been some speculation that Wilson, 71, was considering retirement. But in an interview last week, the former cabinet member in Gov. Don Sundquist’s administration said he had decided to seek another two-year term, though it might be his last.

All three of the men, elected to office in 2009 when Republicans first gained a majority of seats in the state Legislature, are unlikely to face opposition. Under the state constitution, the comptroller and treasurer serve two-year terms; the secretary of state serves a four-year term.

Wilson, a longtime donor to Republican political causes, won his first term after some attention to donations of $36,500 he made to Republican legislators and PACs a year before Republican legislators elected him to the office. Wilson has stopped making direct donations to candidates, but has continued as a significant donor to Republican-oriented PACs.

On the other hand, Wilson says he has ceased making political contributions to either candidates or PACS involved in elections for federal office, having decided that as a state official the contests or Congress and the presidency are “none of my business.”