Testimony to Committee of Judiciary and Ethics on AJR 26: Elimination of My Office and Sec. of State
I had the honor of testifying before the Committee of Judiciary and Ethics this morning on my resolution to amend the Wisconsin Constitution and eliminate my office as well as that of Secretary of State. Below is my official testimony. I also added my own, personal comments after this statement. They will be on our YouTube Page http://www.youtube.com/user/TheWIStateTreasury later this afternoon.
Testimony of Wisconsin State Treasurer Kurt Schuller before the Wisconsin State
Assembly, Committee of Judiciary and Ethics
Regarding Assembly Joint Resolution 26 (LRB-1544)
August 18, 2011
Chairman Ott, Vice-Chairman Larson, members of the Committee, thank you for allowing me to provide testimony regarding AJR 26, a constitutional amendment which I, as State Treasurer, had drafted earlier this year. As a traditional conservative, I have a great deal of respect for our state’s constitution, and for its lengthy amendment process. Our three step amendment process, as laid out in Article XII, safeguards our constitution against flippancy, while giving the people ofWisconsinthe tools they need to reform government in the face of a changing world.
It is a full appreciation for the amendment process that compels me to offer support for AJR 26 at this time. The elimination of the offices of the State Treasurer and Secretary of State is a necessary reform whose time has come. These offices no longer serve the same function that they once did, and the programs under their purview, while efficiently run, are not given the tools necessary to thrive.
The elimination of the offices of the State Treasurer and Secretary of State is necessary for four reasons, which I will detail momentarily. In short, they are as follows:
1.) The duties of the State Treasurer and Secretary of State are administrative in nature, and need not be supervised by elected political partisans.
2.) Dedication to government efficiency demands that we transfer programs to agencies for which they are a good functional fit.
3.) The cost savings associated with the elimination of the offices, while not massive, do exist. As stewards of the people’s money, it is our responsibility to act in as efficient a manner as possible.
4.) The elimination of these offices has the widespread, bi-partisan support of a majority of Wisconsinites.
Nature of the Programs
The programs administered by the offices of the State Treasurer and Secretary of State are administrative in function. The State Treasurer oversees the unclaimed property program, which seeks to unite Wisconsinites with misplaced funds. The Secretary of State maintains the acts of the Governor and Legislature, keeps and affixes the Great Seal of Wisconsin, and provides authentications and apostilles for documents. These duties do not necessitate an elected official’s oversight, and requiring such insures a system of redundancies.
Respect for governmental efficiency dictates that programs be placed in agencies that have a similar range of operation. The recent removal of authority over notaries public and trademarks from the Secretary of State’s Office, and their subsequent placement with the Department of Financial Institutions is an example of the kind of logical transfer to which I am referring. Disbursement of programs from the offices of the Treasurer and Secretary of State to appropriate governmental agencies will enhance the receiving entities and allow for more efficient management.
Passage and enactment of AJR 26 would create cost savings by eliminating the redundant elected positions, in addition to allowing the programs’ new agencies to further streamline operations. Though some may argue that these savings are minimal, I believe that it is an important step toward creating a more responsible and efficient government.
Figures from across the political spectrum have shown support for the passage of AJR 26. The bill has co-sponsors from both parties, and in addition to being a central part of my platform in last fall’s election, the idea of eliminating the offices of the State Treasurer and Secretary of State was a much publicized element of Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett’s gubernatorial campaign. In this time of need for the state, it is important for Republicans and Democrats to pursue areas of government efficiency and the fiscal health of our state, and success is more likely if work is begun from a point of common ground.
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss my support for AJR 26. As someone who fervently believes in good government, I think that it is critical that this amendment pass the legislature and end up in front of the people. Passing the amendment this session is the first step in that process.