Sarah Godlewski
Op Ed

Oppose Amendment Dumping State Treasurer

Constitutional amendment on April ballot would make this the only state without a treasurer.

By - Mar 18th, 2018 10:56 am
Cash. Photo by Moritz Wickendorf.

Cash. Photo by Moritz Wickendorf.

On April 3, Wisconsin voters will be asked if they want to remove the office of state treasurer from our state’s Constitution. Should this amendment pass, Wisconsin would be the only state without a treasurer or financial equivalent, a position that provides a critical check on the state’s executive and legislative branches.

I will be voting “No” against removing this office, and here’s why:

As a former management consultant and now impact investor, I would never advise a client or invest in a business that did not have a separate financial office. Getting rid of the state treasurer is equivalent to a company firing its auditor and chief financial officer and handing those duties to its CEO. A well-run business would never do this, so why would this be good for Wisconsin?

Wisconsin’s treasurer oversees financial transactions by government officials, signs checks and helps oversee four trust funds worth more than $1.2 billion. This amendment completely removes the first two duties and gives trustee responsibility to the lieutenant governor. Through one referendum, we could lose our fiscal watchdog, create an undue concentration of power within the governor’s office, and threaten the financial integrity of our trust funds.

Having a state treasurer is essential to our system of checks and balances. It is one way to ward against abuses by the governor and Legislature, as they determine the tax rate and collect and spend tax money. A 2016 fraud study found that weak internal controls were an underlying factor in three-fifths of the fraud cases it examined. Removing this office is like rolling out the welcome mat to fraudsters, and saying “Come on in!”

The treasurer is an ideal trust fund custodian, because the office is not involved in the state budget process run by the governor and Legislature. Our founding fathers created a system that minimized any conflict of interest. And, this system has been working for 170 years!

In 2017, the Common School Fund distributed $32 million to public school libraries, and the Normal School Fund has a principal of more than $28 million and provides thousands of dollars to the UW System. Further, the State Trust Fund Loan Program provides financing opportunities for projects such as public safety, water treatment, and unfunded prior service pension liabilities. Every county in Wisconsin has benefited. Why would we mess with that?

Finally, the treasurer’s office oversees the state’s financial transactions. Eliminating this role would risk damaging the quality of our audits. Failed audits often have pricey consequences that we, as taxpayers, would have to cover.

For example, the state could lose its federal funding if if fails to spend federal dollars appropriately. Federal funds account for almost $9 billion or 27 percent of our state budget. If our bond rating is lowered, it increases our cost of borrowing and deters investment. Don’t we want to attract good investments to Wisconsin?

Removing the office of the state treasurer would have impacts felt for generations. Vote No on April 3 and protect Wisconsin’s fiscal watchdog.

Sarah Godlewski is the co-founder of an impact investment venture called MaSa Partners and is from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. This column was distributed by the Progressive Media Project, affiliated with The Progressive magazine.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

14 thoughts on “Op Ed: Oppose Amendment Dumping State Treasurer”

  1. Troll says:

    I am looking at the website of one Dawn Sass who was the last four year Democratic Treasurer. After four years of service she sites finding a constituent tax money as her loan accomplishment. She lost her seat. This job is not important.

  2. Joe says:

    Troll – read the article.

  3. Troll says:

    Joe, your being duped. When was the last time a Wisconsin treasurer prevented the legisatature from doing the states work. When was the last Walker or Doyle counsel the treasuer. They have their own cabinet.

  4. Joe says:

    Troll: you apparently lack comprehension skills. The function of the Treasurer’s Office is clearly defined in this article. Furthermore: The Treasurer, as the State’s financial officer, aids in the oversight of billion-dollar trust funds and the State Trust Fund Loan Program. These funds have invested over $1 Billion benefiting communities in all 72 counties in Wisconsin.
    The State Treasurer’s Office works separately from the state budget process run by the Governor and the Legislature, thus serving as the ideal custodian to protect the integrity of trust funds on behalf of all Wisconsinites. If successful, this ballot measure transfers all responsibilities of the State Treasurer to the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, creating a disconcerting consolidation of power.

    The elimination of this office is an assault on our constitution and democracy.

    I believe you’ve been Walkerconned.

  5. Troll says:

    Joe, I would trust a financial robot over any side show clown that sits in that office. Any fool can get themselves elected (SEE Dawn Sass or the Milwaukee County pension board) Do you know if the city of Milwaukee pension board still calculating eight percent annual returns. Unbelievable.

  6. Joe says:

    Once again Troll – you avoid the facts I presented and this story’s.
    The position oversees several skilled public servents trailed to administer the duties of this office.

  7. Ted Chisholm says:

    There have been two Republican state treasurers since Dawn Sass. Both have tried using the job as a stepping-stone to run for legislative office. Maybe you should be more concerned about that, Troll?

    Separately, voting no is crucial. The importance of this office is its vote on the Public Lands Commission. If the treasurer’s office is eliminated, the lieutenant governor will serve on the commission instead, removing the commission’s check on the governorship.

  8. Joe says:

    Troll- for your reading please. Be informed.
    But the treasurer’s office should not be eliminated. It should be strengthened by electing able officials to fill it, by pressuring the Legislature to restore its authority and by encouraging treasurers to enhance and expand their duties to analyze and challenge unbalanced budgets, unsound tax policies, irresponsible spending and cronyism and corruption.

  9. Snowbeer says:

    Ditch the L.Gov. instead. Talk about useless. Can always have someone identified in the event that the gov is unable to serve (beyond the now normal mental capability part).

  10. Ben says:

    Needless position – dump it.

  11. pg1946 says:

    I love that eliminating the office of state treasurer is a project of what its leaders called “the party of fiscal responsibility” in Wisconsin. A better epithet would be “the party of unimpeded absolute power” or “the party of one-party dictatorship and its enablers”. “Permanent majority” and “unitary Presidency” anybody? (These two terms are coinages of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, respectively.). Joe has got it right.

  12. KRalph says:

    Will this be another worded referendum that is a double negative and confuse the voter, or will it be one where the meaning is the reverse of what is being stated but still confusing.

  13. Old Man Yells at Cloud says:

    Just another way to rape the publicly owned assets of Wisconsin. This would probably hurt the states bond rating, but as long as Walker hands out freebies to the rich who cares!

  14. Old Man Yells at Cloud says:

    KRalph, here is the wording.

    “Elimination of state treasurer. Shall sections 1 and 3 of article VI and sections 7 and 8 of article X of the constitution be amended, and section 17 of article XIV of the constitution be created, to eliminate the office of state treasurer from the constitution and to replace the state treasurer with the lieutenant governor as a member of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands?”

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