Pennsylvania should establish college savings accounts for children at birth to encourage more students and parents to think early about saving for higher education, Democratic state treasurer candidate Joe Torsella said Monday.

During a meeting with a Times-Shamrock editorial board, Torsella, a Berwick native and Wyoming Seminary graduate who lives in Montgomery County, said the state would deposit perhaps as little as $50 only once. That money could grow over time, but a student could add to it, he said.

“There’s research that says if a kid has a bank account when they’re born … that child is seven times more likely to go to something after high school,” he said. “And for the kid with that degree, that means up to $1 million more in lifetime income.”

Torsella also argues for encouraging small businesses to team up to create state-administered pension plans by requiring automatic deductions of at least 3 percent to the plans from employees’ paychecks. Employers would not have to sign up employees or even contribute to the plans and employees could opt out, but creating the option could foster an understanding of the need to supplement Social Security and actually create separate pensions at retirement, he said.

“This is not a burden on business,” he said.

Torsella pointed out three of the last five elected state treasurers ended up facing federal corruption charges, so he advocates reform. The reforms include: appointing a chief integrity officer; banning third parties from finding investment managers for the treasury; index investing that cuts out investment managers; requiring treasury money managers to disclose their personal investments; and disclosing political contributions next to the state’s online database of contracts.

Torsella faces Republican Otto Voit in the Nov. 8 election. The job pays $158,764 this year. Elected treasurers can serve up to two four-year terms.