You won’t need to take a hammer to the polls on April 3 to pound the final nail in the coffin of the state treasurer’s office.
A simple marker like you use to vote for candidates on the ballot will do just fine.
While the state treasurer used to hold a fair amount of responsibility in Wisconsin government — dating all the way back to our territorial days and embedded in the state constitution in 1848 — the simple fact is that most of its duties have been parceled away to other state agencies and officers in the past two decades; it is now a skeleton of its former self that needs a proper money-saving burial.
Former Gov. Tommy Thompson laid the groundwork for this vote and began shrinking the duties of the treasurer back in the mid-1990s. At one time, the state treasurer’s office was responsible for a myriad of duties — including collecting taxes.
In 1995, the treasurer’s office had a staff of 23 and a budget of $4.4 million; that’s when the dismantling began. Cash management functions and oversight of the EdVest program were given to the Department of Administration, under control of the governor; the Department of Revenue took over the Unclaimed Property Division, and in 2015 the assistant treasurer position was eliminated.
That leaves the treasurer’s office with a two-year budget of $227,000 in the current budget and the number of staff members at one. The treasurer’s job itself pays just under $70,000 per year and, as one recent news account put it, “the treasurer’s most significant remaining duty is to be a member of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, a little-known entity that manages trust funds built through fees, fines and land sales.”
If the constitutional amendment is approved on April 3, the latter responsibility will be given over to the state lieutenant governor.
There is some opposition to eliminating the post, mainly on the grounds that the state treasurer’s office provides an independent check on the legislative and executive branches when it comes to financial oversight. Former state Treasurer Jack Voight, a Republican who held the office from 1995 to 2007, has been advocating to preserve the office and has been joined by a Democrat venture capitalist from Eau Claire, who says eliminating the job will “roll out the welcome mat to fraudsters.”
We don’t see it that way.
The ship has sailed, as the responsibilities of the office have been stripped away. All that’s left to do is let taxpayers pocket the remaining couple of hundred thousand dollars, and turn the Capitol office into storage space or give it to other staff.
If, by some chance, state voters reject this constitutional amendment, it would put the Legislature in the position of finding some actual work for the state treasurer to do. That would be akin to hiring your sister’s son for a job and telling him to just sit at that desk until we find something for him to do.
Yes, there is at least one person already registered to run for the office who would be willing to take on the titular responsibilities and collect the nearly $70,000 annual salary.
Vote “Yes” on the constitutional amendment and put this to rest.