Under the Dome

Dale Folwell is watching over the state pension fund

North Carolina Treasurer Dale Folwell
North Carolina Treasurer Dale Folwell tlong@newsobserver.com

State lawmakers return Wednesday to start their work for 2017, their first session sharing Raleigh with the Cooper administration. The News & Observer takes a look at four people and five issues that will matter this year. Get to know Dale Folwell, Darren Jackson, Bill Rabon and Sarah Stevens. Find out what the General Assembly could consider on taxes, election law, teacher and principal pay, House Bill 2 and Hurricane Matthew relief. And learn more about how the legislative process works.

North Carolina’s new state treasurer, Dale Folwell, is in charge of two big-money items dear to state employees – managing the $90 billion pension fund and the $3 billion state-employee health plan.

Folwell, 58, is a Republican, but carries with him “Keeper of the Public Purse,” a book by former Treasurer Harlan Boyles, a Democrat who was admired by conservatives and served 24 years in the office.

“The things that go on in this office over the next four years are going to make a generational difference in the future of our state,” Folwell said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with emotion. It doesn’t have anything to do with politics. It has to do with the mathematics.”

Folwell, who served in the state House and in former Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration, comes into the office with plans for change. He’s been talking for years about the family premiums in the state employee health plan, which Folwell says are too expensive for many state employees. He plans to freeze family premiums for 2018, and thinks the health plan can be managed better and more efficiently. He said he’s going to look for fraud and waste in the health plan – people using the insurance who are not eligible. And he thinks there may be ways to save on prescription drugs.

He is calling all the outside money managers investing pension money. He aims to cut management fees by $100 million.

Folwell could weigh in on proposals in the General Assembly affecting the pension and health systems. He could also play a role if lawmakers renew their consideration of a proposal to let counties use state money saved from school staff reductions to make lease payments on new schools – an idea he opposed during the campaign.

“Four years from now, I want to be talking about results, not problems,” he said.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner