MacIver News Service
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON, Wis. – The state officeholder who campaigned to eliminate his office is urging Wisconsin voters to help him do just that at the polls next week.
State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk four years ago campaigned for the office with a novel pledge: He would do all he could in one – and only one – term to get rid of the state treasurer’s post.
On Tuesday, a state referendum question will ask voters whether the office of the treasurer should be eliminated from the constitution. And, if so, should the lieutenant governor replace the treasurer as a member of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, administrator of the state’s Common School Fund.
It’s a yes or no question. Adamczyk is a definite yes.
“The office of the treasurer is basically symbolic in nature. It’s a relic of the past, and I say we get rid of it,” he told MacIver News Service recently on the Vicki McKenna Show, on NewsTalk 1310 WIBA.
The referendum to amend the constitution, on the April 3 ballot, has been mostly overshadowed by the hotly contested state Supreme Court election.
But Adamczyk, a limited-government Republican, said the treasurer’s question is bigger than the ballot issue. It’s an opportunity, at least in a small way, to reduce the size and scope of state government.
“We need to show we can try to limit government somehow,” he said. “Government just can’t keep getting bigger. We have to stop the growth in government and, at a minimum limit it, and, hopefully, reduce it.”
Adamczyk has limited some of the government footprint in the office he successfully campaigned for. One of his first acts as treasurer was to cut two bureaucratic positions. He could have filled a deputy treasurer position, which paid about $85,000 per year. He declined. The treasurer said he couldn’t hire someone for a job that didn’t have any real duties.
Adamczyk said eliminating the positions and turning the mostly symbolic treasurer’s office into a one-man show will save taxpayers about $1 million in salaries and benefits over the course of his four-year term.
Taxpayers would save another $70,000 a year in treasurer’s salary if voters move to eliminate the office.
While an essential part of state government when Wisconsin became a state in 1848, the treasurer’s office has seen most of its duties and responsibilities shifted to other agencies. The treasurer’s remaining constitutional responsibility is to serve on the three-member Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, alongside the attorney general and the secretary of state. The referendum question would turn that obligation over to the lieutenant governor.
The Republican-controlled Legislature passed in two consecutive sessions (as the constitution requires) a resolution to take the treasurer’s question to voters. The measure earned some bipartisan support in the Assembly.
Critics of the campaign to put the treasurer’s office out of its misery insist the move is “another power grab” by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Big government defenders such as Madison Alderman Mark Clear have urged residents of the liberal city to vote “no” on the resolution.
“The next State Treasurer should focus on providing independent information to the public about the state’s budget and fiscal health, as well as encouraging the Legislature to restore the position’s financial oversight authority,” Clear said in a press release.
But referendum question supporters, like state Rep. Rob Brooks (R-Brookfield), say the effort is about streamlining government, making it more efficient and accountable by eliminating an unnecessary office.
Adamczyk, who earlier announced he is running for the Assembly seat being vacated by state Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), said he’s optimistic voters will take the “opportunity to make government smaller.”
“Most people do vote that way when given a direct chance to make government a little bit smaller,” the outgoing treasurer said.