The Wisconsin Assembly voted 68-31 on Thursday to amend the state constitution to eliminate the position of treasurer. The amendment now goes to a referendum in April 2018.
For an amendment to be successful, it has to pass each chamber of the state Legislature in consecutive sessions and then be approved by the voters.
“It is my belief that the Office of State Treasurer in the State of Wisconsin is outdated, not needed and a waste of taxpayer money,” state Treasurer Matt Adamczyk said in a statement after the vote. “For this reason, I ran and was elected on the platform of eliminating the treasurer’s office.”
Adamczyk thanked state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, for bringing up the amendment.
The Assembly author of the amendment, Rep. Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, said in a statement after the vote that almost all of the duties traditionally assigned to a state treasurer are now done by the state Department of Revenue and the Department of Administration.
“This amendment is in line with our efforts to make Wisconsin government more streamlined and efficient,” Schraa said. “Since the main duties of the treasurer are now fulfilled by state agencies, it only makes sense to eliminate the unnecessary expense of this office.”
Because the legislature has reduced the state treasurer’s responsibilities over time, the sole remaining duty of the office is to serve on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, along with the state attorney general and the secretary of state. The board administers a public trust fund that distributes the interest earned to public schools. That seat on the board would be given to the lieutenant governor if the amendment is passed.
Assembly Democrats objected to that change, saying it put too much power in the hands of the governor’s office. They proposed an amendment to put the superintendent for the Department of Public Instruction on the board instead.
“We think to put this much power with this much money into one administration is not the way we should be handling our business,” said Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee.
“We’re passing that money over to DOA under the auspices of the governor, and therefore we lose control of those funds,” said Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie. “We are getting rid of an elected official and turning over those funds to an appointed official. Bad, bad idea.”
Technically that is incorrect. In Wisconsin, the lieutenant governor is chosen separately in the partisan primary election, then runs on a single ticket with the same-party gubernatorial candidate in the November election.
“The last time I checked, the lieutenant governor is an elected position, I believe,” said state Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva. “So replacing one partisan official with another partisan official doesn’t cause any great harm.”
The amendment was defeated, 64-35.
James Wigderson reports for Wisconsin Watchdog. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @jwigderson.