SHOREWOOD — Your ballot Tuesday will include a measure asking voters if they want to remove the office of the state treasurer from the Constitution.
I will be voting “no.” This is a blatant attempt by the state Legislature, governor and current treasurer to eliminate an important check and balance written into our state Constitution 170 years ago.
Over the past decade the duties of the state treasurer’s office have been stripped away, and the office holders have failed to protect or improve the office all in an attempt to diminish the power of the office. These duties haven’t gone away.
Rather, they have been transferred to unelected government bureaucrats who, in many cases, are appointed by the party in power.
Short-sighted politicians are claiming the office of the treasurer is unnecessary, but I firmly disagree. The treasurer is a member of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, which manages about 80,000 acres of school trust lands, helps secure public access to land, and protects rare and unique ecosystems.
The state treasurer also helps to oversee the Common School Fund and the University Fund, which in 2017 provided $32.1 million for public school library materials and technology needs — often the only source of funding to many schools in Wisconsin. These funds also provided $122 million in low-interest loans to municipalities for public projects including economic development, local infrastructure and building improvements.
I am Wisconsin’s current state treasurer and, with help from voters, I will hopefully be our last state treasurer.
The treasurer also oversees financial transactions, has the authority to permit audits and act as a fiscal watchdog.
Ultimately, the state treasurer retains perhaps the most important authority, and that is the voice of the people of Wisconsin. As an elected official, the treasurer answers only to the people. If the office is eliminated, its authorities will be transferred to bureaucrats. This is wrong.
If we save the office Tuesday by voting “no,” we will have a unique opportunity to build something from the ground up. To start, we can look at neighboring states and see what works.
Then, we can examine our government and see where the treasurer can have the best impact. Finally, we can tap business leaders and local community leaders and truly listen to people’s concerns and take action.
We can start small and demand an annual fiscal report. Perhaps we would like to see the state treasurer on the board of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., or back on the local investment pool board or other investment committees. Possibly the office could even work with the Legislature to help craft fiscal decisions or improve tax policy.
Whatever we decide, the point is we will build the new office together, and the person that we elect will answer to us. That matters.
But first and foremost, we must vote “no” April 3, save the state’s fiscal watchdog, retain the check on the power of the governor and state Legislature, and reclaim our voice.
Lynn, who works in the financial industry, lives in the Milwaukee County community of Shorewood: @jrlynn87 and www.saveourfiscalwatchdog.org.
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