Every so often, a politician seeks to gain favor with cost-conscious voters by promoting the political gimmick of eliminating the constitutional office of the secretary of state.
The State Journal on Thursday excitedly endorsed gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett's idea "for saving money and eliminating bureaucracy," but the newspaper does not seem to have really thought the issue through.
Several thoughts should come to the minds of those who promote this gimmick:
1. From where exactly does the more than $1 million in savings come? Someone has to provide the public services provided by the current offices of the secretary of state and treasurer.
Barrett seems to think great amounts of money will be saved by moving the functions of the secretary of state to the lieutenant governor's office. But the office space and employees will still be needed to do the job.
I suppose my salary of $64,000 would be saved, but that is hardly the level of savings touted by Barrett and the State Journal. And the lieutenant governor might well need to hire a manager to oversee these functions, further reducing any savings.
2. These public services include a great deal more than keeping the Great Seal of Wisconsin, the example that the State Journal loves to talk about.
A few examples include registering and maintaining trademarks, notary commissions, apostilles (a type of notary) for foreign adoptions, education and trade, and maintaining the historical records of Wisconsin's municipalities.
By the way, under my direction the office has completed a project to digitalize all of the records of notaries public, trade names and trademarks, municipal records and forest land deeds, thus making them far more accessible to the public.
I would suggest that people see for themselves what our offices does by looking at the secretary of state's website: www.sos.state.wi.us.
3. Barrett talks about eliminating bureaucracy, but since when is moving responsibility from one elected person to another eliminating it? I find this to be very strange thinking. Past experience with doing this has ended up costing money and making it more difficult for citizens to obtain services. And, by the way, all of these services are paid for by fees, so there is little or no drain on the state's budget.
Political campaigning is sometimes called the "silly season" by pundits, and ideas like this certainly justify that name. I hope logic will prevail and we will move on to other ideas that might actually benefit Wisconsin's citizens.
La Follette has served as Wisconsin's secretary of state for more than 30 years.