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Wisconsin treasurer fulfills campaign pledge by laying off staff

By   /   January 28, 2015  /   News  /   No Comments

By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — Newly elected state Treasurer Matt Adamczyk ran on a campaign pledge of cutting 80 percent from a $545,000 annual budget. A few weeks into his first and supposed only term, he has, through lay-offs, already gotten rid of his two-member staff.

Photo provided by Office of the State Treasurer

GOOD-BYE FOR GOOD?: Newly-elected state Treasurer Matt Adamczyk has laid off his staff as part of an overall plan to eliminate the state agency.

Adamczyk also declined to fill an empty deputy treasurer position that was paying close to $107,000 a year in salary and benefits.

“I’m a big believer that in government it’s not our job just to give people jobs,” Adamczyk told Wisconsin Reporter.

The state has transferred most of the treasurer’s duties to other government agencies over the past several years, so Adamcyzk said he sees no need for the workers.

The only constitutional responsibility of the state treasurer is to sit on the Board of Commissioners of Public Land. The time commitment for serving on that panel, which provides funding to libraries and school districts, is usually two 15-minute phone calls per month, Adamczyk said.

He says he doesn’t think he’ll have a problem performing other tasks, such as promoting the state’s unclaimed property program and answering the phone.

“We don’t really get calls,” Adamczyk said. “The calls that we do receive, typically it’s the wrong number.”

Adamczyk’s ultimately wants to eliminate the Office of the State Treasurer, and he has at least two Republican lawmakers in his corner.

Sen. Richard Gudex, R-Fond du Lac, confirmed to Wisconsin Reporter on Tuesday he and state Rep. Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, have begun circulating a bill for co-sponsorship that would let voters decide, through a binding referendum, whether to abolish the agency.

But history is not on Adamczyk’s side.

His predecessor, Kurt Schuller, campaigned on the same promise but was unable to get the Legislature to pass a resolution, drafted in 2011, to dissolve the department. A similar bill also failed to pass the Senate in the previous legislative session.

Adamczyk is optimistic a shakeup in the Senate after the November election would lead to a different result.

“We’ve got the numbers, I believe, where we need them to be,” Adamczyk said. “And, obviously, the best part about it is it’s ultimately up to the voters because it’s a constitutional amendment.”

If the bill is passed the next two legislative sessions and voters approve the referendum, it would still be 2019 before the office goes away, Gudex said.

Adamczyk has canceled a number of maintenance and service contracts on unused computers and cell phones. One smart phone, which had been receiving service for months, was unassigned and never taken from the original box, Adamczyk said.

“I don’t know anyone in the private world that would even consider doing that.”

Adamczyk said he’s also looking to return 25 percent of his $68,000 salary and partner with the Department of Motor Vehicles to mail information on the unclaimed property program with license plate renewal letters.

“Sometimes we have to cut through stuff, but other times it’s just doing something differently. If we can do things differently and ultimately save money, well let’s go ahead and do it.”

Adamczyk predicts taxpayers will see similar savings if the Legislature approves proposals Gov. Scott Walker made in his State of the State Address calling for the merger of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. with the state Housing and Economic Development Authority, and the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions with the state Department of Safety and Professional Services.

AP file photo

MERGING: Gov. Scott Walker proposed consolidating several state agencies during his State of the State Address earlier this month.

Laurel Patrick, press secretary for the governor, told Wisconsin Reporter that Walker will outline other possible agency consolidations when he introduces his budget plan Feb. 3.

“I believe that government has grown too big and too intrusive in our lives and we must rein it in, but the government that is left must work … We should demand a government that is more effective, more efficient and more accountable to the public,” Walker said in his State of the State speech.

Some state Democrats, including Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, and Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, have been reluctant to jump on board.

Shilling has said she is underwhelmed by Walker’s consolidation plan because it would have little impact on state taxpayers and the economy.

“If merging a couple of state agencies is Governor Walker’s road map for the future, it’s going to be a short drive,” Shilling told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

But Gudex argues that public agencies can operate on leaner budgets, if that’s the direction the Legislature wants to take.

“You can make anything work. I mean, private businesses do that every day. Government can do the same thing if we really want to try and make improvements.”

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Adam formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.