TOPEKA — Kansas state treasurer Lynn Rogers has a bipartisan financial tip for one-fourth of senators and representatives serving in the Kansas Legislature.
“I looked up all the legislators and found 40 of the legislators that had unclaimed property. Totaled about $8,000,” he said.
He had trouble convincing at least one lawmaker of what awaited her in the treasurer’s unclaimed property fund. It’s the state government repository for misplaced or forgotten bank accounts, stock portfolios and other valuable items, including valuables left in safety deposit boxes.
“One of them said, ‘No, I check that all the time.’ I handed her the form. It was almost $4,000,” Rogers said.
In December, Gov. Laura Kelly said she would appoint her lieutenant governor of two years to the position of state treasurer following departure of Jake LaTurner, who was elected to the U.S. House in November. Rogers, who served 17 years on the Wichita school board member, was serving in the Kansas Senate when elected lieutenant governor on a ticket with Kelly. Rogers began his new duties as treasurer in January.
Kelly said he was qualified to serve as treasurer after 40 years in banking, much of that time in service to the agriculture industry. The state treasurer in Kansas oversees directs investment of state assets and also oversees state revenue and finances.
Kansas Republican Party chairman Mike Kuckelman said Kelly ought to have selected a Republican to replace LaTurner, and argued the decision illustrated the governor had “no interest in working with Republicans to achieve meaningful solutions in Topeka.”
Rogers said some people who criticized the governor’s choice of a Democrat also called him to say they believed he was well-qualified to be state treasurer. Rogers said he planned to run for election to the job in 2022.
“I’m going to have to prove myself to the state that not only can I do the job, but I can also, you know, earn their trust,” he said on the Kansas Reflector podcast. “I told the governor up front I really liked this job. You know, as a banker for 40 years, it’s very natural. It’s just a really natural fit for me. I don’t see it as a stepping stone. And, so, I really see that there’s a lot of things we can do with this office to help the ordinary Kansan. So, I would love to be able to do it beyond just the two-year interim.”
Rogers, 62, grew up on a Nebraska hog farm, graduated from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and worked for Citibank in Chicago before accepting a job with Farm Credit Bank in Wichita during the mid-1980s to work with Kansas farmers, ranchers and agricultural businesses. In 1993, Rogers became a vice president at CoBank Farm Credit Leasing. As state treasurer, he typically works in Topeka during the week and spends weekends at home in Wichita.
He has ventured back into the Capitol to testify on behalf of a bill in the Kansas Senate that would expand opportunities for businesses to secure low-interest loans through the state during the COVID-19 pandemic. The loans would make use of cash reserves handled by the state treasurer’s office.
“The bill was not written so that we limited it to just Kansans or Kansas businesses. And so we made sure that that got added,” Rogers said. “We also wanted to make sure that everyone got to do it. So you know, Farm Credit and credit unions and banks, and also that we’d have a review process in a couple years, because we feel like if it is economic recovery, it shouldn’t be going on forever.”
He said he questioned practicality of a bill that would allow parents to claim tax dollars earmarked for a child’s public education. The money would be placed in an account with the state treasurer’s office and deposits could be spent by the parents on a handful of expenses, including tuition, fees or tutoring. The task of creating more than 400,000 checking accounts would require substantial investment in administration and staffing, he said.
“There’s some real funky things about the bill,” Rogers said. “The school district has to tell the parent that their child is eligible, but nobody is obligated to tell the state treasurer that child is eligible. So if a parent applies, they have to fill out a form. It’s all by paper, there’s nothing that says we can do that electronically. The workload is is horrendous.”
Rogers invited folks to perform computer searches for themselves, relatives, friends or anyone at kansascash.ks.gov to see if treasure awaits them at his office. The state returns about $24 million annually.
He said before his appointment as treasurer, two people got to enjoy the surprise discovery that they owned a bunch of Apple stock.
“We recently came across about 5,500 shares of Apple stock for about $750,000,” he said. “It was not put in the family trust, for some reason. The two children were in their 70s. And somehow, you know, they didn’t know about it. It was really a lifechanging difference.”