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Published: Sunday, 10/13/2002

Deters cites fiscal results

COLUMBUS - Ohio Treasurer Joe Deters has touted record-setting returns on his office's investment of state tax dollars.

That is true by Ohio standards. During the three full fiscal years under Mr. Deters' tenure, the average annual rate of return on general fund investments was 5.1 percent.

But most of Ohio's neighbors have reported better percentage returns during the same period. Such comparisons are inexact. Some states permit stock market investments while Ohio does not

“The mission is different,” said Mr. Deters. “We're here to pay the state's bills. Number one is safety. Number two is liquidity. Number three, and only then, is return.”

This year tax collections are down and the state has drained its emergency fund. As a result, the state's investment portfolio has shrunk by about half from its peak of about $8 billion.

“Voters of the state are going to look at what happened here - 17 national awards, record earnings, the most restrictive investment policy in Ohio's history,” said Mr. Deters, whose pre-Treasury background was in law, not finance.

But awards and earnings haven't garnered headlines this election season the way ethical questions about his campaign fund-raising practices have.

His campaign has benefited from bankers and brokers who do business with his office. They've also been encouraged to contribute to the Hamilton County Republican Party, a major backer of Mr. Deters' campaign.

“We decided very early on in this term that we would accept contributions, but we would also have safeguards in place to ensure that was not a criteria for receiving work in this office,” he said. “Performance is the criteria. If they don't perform, whether they've given us campaign money or not, they're out.”

- JIM PROVANCE



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