The Oregon legislature is considering two bills that would create a "State Bank" and, despite hearing a lot about the idea over the past couple weeks, my main response to a state bank has been, "Um... What? How would that work? What does it mean?"
Jared Gardner from Oregonians for a State Bank broke it down for me. Here's the deal:
Oregon has about $500 million to $1 billion in what's loosely called "the Oregon Growth Fund", a collection of a bunch of different pots of money managed by various state agencies but that are all earmarked to help stimulate the economy (for example, some Oregon lottery funds are part of this group). Right now, this money is deposited with big banks (as Gardner says, "the same 'Too Big To Fail' banks that crashed our economy") like US Bank, which runs the debit card that's used to distribute unemployment insurance. What ticks off consumer advocates off is that those big national and international banks wind up making money off our state's public money.
Instead, say Oregonians for a State Bank and Treasurer Ted Wheeler, we should create a statewide Finance and Credit oversight board and invest that $500 million in local firms or lend it to Oregon small businesses.
Whew. So that's the idea. Think Out Loud this morning covered the pros and cons of the idea pretty thoroughly. I think it sounds like a pretty smart change, but judging by my checking account, I'm no finance expert. Opinions, anyone?