ORLANDO, Fla. -- Florida's Chief Financial Officer, Alex Sink spoke here at the Florida CU League's Government Affairs Luncheon during its 2007 Annual Convention & Exposition, soothing any CU concerns over a former banker overseeing the state's highest financial office. Karen Thurman, a five-term congresswoman and now chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party introduced Sink as "a breath of fresh air in Tallahassee. Everywhere she has worked she has left a mark and worked diligently with advocacy groups." Sink warmed to the audience and to credit unions. Sink, a Democrat, assumed the CFO spot in January.
Previously, Sink ran Florida's largest bank--Bank of America--and first thanked Thurman for discouraging other Democrats running for the office, then noted how Thurman called her after she announced her candidacy, saying, "I have two people I want you to talk to who are very worried about a banker getting this job." They were Guy Hood, FCUL president and Aletta Shutes, FCUL executive vice president. "I told her, 'No problem,' I believe in competition and I believe the credit union industry has a critical role in the landscape of financial providers in the state of Florida," said Sink.
"I won their support and I do appreciate your being engaged in the political scene; you should wield your power and if you do, you will make a difference," Sink said. As CFO, Sink oversees the Dept. of Financial Affairs and the Office of Insurance Regulation, two among the five 12 state agencies with financial components that report to her cabinet position.
"Aletta keeps reminding when I speak that I fall back on my background and use the word customers, rather than members. Well, I expect I'll get continued coaching in that department," said Shutes. She explained that the Dept. of Financial Services exists to "protect and safeguard our citizens' money and assets" and by managing the business of the state with an eye toward sound management of the auditing and accounting function, she would do just that. "I'm proud to be a bean counter," she said, because a big part of the job is as a watchdog.
Sink noted that some state contracts had been so poorly written it was impossible to hold outsourced contractors accountable, and the state's budget of $70 billion had plenty of room for improvement. She spoke of the Florida Legislature's recent passage of a tax break and for cities and counties and a fix for the skyrocketing hurricane insurance costs. "I believe that if we develop a culture of mitigation we will see stable insurance costs as we go along."
Sink noted that the tax roll back would mean local towns must freeze budgets at the 2006-2007 levels and "thousands of Floridians will lose jobs over this. That's important for you credit unions that are county and city membership-based."
Sink said that no one from a credit union would have to hire a lobbyist to get into her office.