For more than two decades William H. “Bill” Campbell has been fixing finances.
As a senior executive for the U.S. Navy, he was instrumental in ending the days of the Navy buying $400 hammers and $600 toilet seats. As chief financial officer of the U.S. Coast Guard, Campbell said he corrected $8.5 billion in accounting errors, making the Coast Guard the first and only branch of the armed forces to obtain clean financial audit.
Campbell said he now hopes to put his financial skills to use helping close Maryland’s lingering structural deficit and fully fund its employee pension liability.
Campbell, 67, a Republican, is running against Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) and Anjali Reed Phukan, who has filed as a write-in candidate.
Campbell — who currently owns financial services firm, Atlantic Financial Navigation LLC, which advises federal agencies and companies that do business with the government — ran against Franchot in 2010 and lost.
But Maryland’s “criminally” unfunded pension liability for state employees made Campbell jump into the race again in 2014.
Maryland, he said, has a $41 billion bill it will have to pay when it comes to pensions or else renege on benefits promised to teachers and state employees.
“The governor and the legislature have used the pension fund as an ATM, and they have been taking large amounts of money out of it, or diverting the money before it goes into it, for other projects,” Campbell said. “This is unfair to the taxpayers and it’s unfair to the teachers and our state employees. This was avoidable. It was almost malicious the way they, instead of paying the actuarial recommended contribution every year, diverted money to their latest hobby.”
Maryland also has a lingering structural deficit and “out-of-control spending,” Campbell said.
Maryland is constitutionally required to balance its budget, but Campbell said the O’Malley administration is using an accounting gimmick to skirt that requirement.
“We only have so much money to spend and we have to spend it the wisest possible way,” he said. “The structural deficit, they act like that is writ in stone, like it was the third tablet that Moses brought down. All structural deficit is, is that you deliberately and knowingly plan on spending more money than you’re going to bring in.”
If the state had kept spending flat for two years, the deficit would have already disappeared, he said.
As chairman of the Board of Revenue Estimates, vice chairman of the Board of Pension Fund Trustees and one of the three members of the Board of Public Works, Campbell said the comptroller plays a critical role in projecting revenue, managing the pension system and overseeing spending. If elected, Campbell said he would use his influence to end the structural deficit, fund the pension system and cut spending.
As is, Maryland’s deleterious financial situation is driving residents from the state, and Campbell said he is concerned that unless something changes, more will choose to leave.
“I don’t want to move away, and I’m very concerned things in Maryland are going to get so bad that I may be forced to move away,” he said.
Campbell said he feels Franchot is unqualified to continue as comptroller.
“There’s a difference between eight years of experience and eight good years of experience,” he said. “If he lived in a garage for eight years he would not be an automobile.”
Campbell said he is open to debating Franchot and Phukan ahead of the Nov. 4 general election.
Campbell holds a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, a bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and has completed two executive programs at Havard Business School. He also served as a commissioned lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve, receiving an honorable discharge.
He and his wife, Pam, live in Columbia.