Top Oregon budget writer Sen. Elizabeth Steiner running for treasurer

Current Treasurer Tobias Read is term-limited and running for secretary of state

By: - September 13, 2023 11:40 am

Sen. Elizabeth Steiner, D-Portland, is running for treasurer. (Steiner campaign)

After five years as one of the state’s lead budget writers, Sen. Elizabeth Steiner wants to manage Oregon’s finances. 

Steiner, a Democrat and physician from Portland, announced her campaign for state treasurer on Wednesday, a day before candidates can begin filing for 2024 races. One other Democrat, Beaverton nonprofit president Brett Baker, is also raising money for a treasurer bid.

Steiner described the move as a “logical progression” for her, as current Treasurer Tobias Read is term-limited and she has deep experience with state finances. She helped pass a law setting up a retirement savings program to run through the treasury and has been working on ways to expand the treasury’s college savings plan. 

“I’m the right person for this position because I have more relevant experience than anybody else in the state,” Steiner said. “My work as the chief budget writer for the state for five years and in various subcommittees before that, and my work in thinking about how we use our bonding capacity and how we think about our investment strategies in a variety of ways, means that I already have a large chunk of understanding of what this does.”

She also pointed out that, if elected,  she’d be the first female treasurer– the only statewide office not held by a woman. It’s not the most important qualification, Steiner said, but women have a different perspective on financial struggles and the state’s long overdue. 

“Women bring a different perspective to some of the financial issues facing families,” Steiner said. “And that, in combination with my expertise on the financial issues facing the state and all the work that I’ve done with (the Public Employees Retirement System) makes me uniquely qualified.”

The treasurer oversees state investments, including the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund, that total about $106 billion, and manages public banking and saving programs including the Oregon College Savings Plan and OregonSaves, a retirement plan for self-employed people workers whose employers don’t offer workplace retirement plans. 

Steiner said she hopes to expand the state-run savings programs by setting up a voluntary savings program to allow Oregonians to set aside small amounts of money through payroll deductions to prepare for emergencies. Many families lack the savings to cover an unexpected medical emergency or major car repair.

She also wants to start offering financial literacy classes for adults. A law passed this year requires high school students to pass a financial literacy course to graduate, but Steiner said many adults never got that training. 

“I really want people to be empowered to make strong choices for themselves,” she said. “They can’t make good choices unless they know what those choices are, and the way to do that is through education.”

And she hopes to provide more state funding for the college savings plans and do more to let Oregonians know that they can use the plans for trades and any post-high-school education, not just college. 

The state treasurer is third in the line of succession if the governor leaves office, behind the secretary of state. The current treasurer, Read, has served since 2017 and is barred by term limits from running again. On Wednesday, he officially announced his candidacy for secretary of state, after signaling he would run in July. Steiner’s colleague in the Senate, Eugene Democrat James Manning, also announced a run for secretary of state Wednesday.

Steiner has served in the Legislature since 2011, when she was appointed to fill a Senate vacancy caused by then-Sen. Suzanne Bonamici’s election to Congress. Since 2018, she’s been a co-chair of the budget-writing Joint Ways and Means Committee, one of the most powerful and sought-after posts in Salem. 

Steiner is a family physician and teaches part-time at Oregon Health & Science University. 

She began her campaign with several key endorsements, including from House Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, who was a House co-chair on the budget committee before he became speaker. 

“Having worked closely with Sen. Steiner on budget issues for many years, I know she has the expertise necessary to be Oregon’s Treasurer,” Rayfield said. 

Each Senate district contains two House districts, and the two representatives in Steiner’s district are also Democratic doctors: physician Maxine Dexter and pediatrician Lisa Reynolds. Steiner said she let both know that she was planning to run for treasurer.

Her term in the Senate ends in 2027, and she plans to serve through the general election barring an unexpectedly competitive campaign that would prevent her from fulfilling her legislative duties and running a campaign simultaneously. 


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Julia Shumway
Julia Shumway

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.