Former Candidate for State Treasurer and sitting District 29 Senator Tony Fulton recently wrote an editorial about one of the proposed amendments to the Constitution of Nebraska that is on ballots statewide. (Information on the other amendment can be found HERE.)
Against Amendment 2
by Tony Fulton
Nebraskans should not abolish the office of State Treasurer. As a state senator I serve on the Appropriations Committee responsible for Nebraska's budget and was also once a candidate for the office of Treasurer. With these insights, I have crafted this letter to explain why I believe it would be a bad idea to abolish this important elected office.
A reason one might be in favor of abolishing the State Treasurer is to consolidate the functions of state government. It might be argued that the responsibilities of the Treasurer's office can be accomplished by other agencies of government. While this may be true, the reality is that some responsibilities of state government have purposefully been moved into the office of the State Treasurer - not away from it. The very important responsibility of managing child support payments in Nebraska was recently conducted by the Department of Health & Human Services. The Department's performance in past years was lackluster, so child support was moved to the State Treasurer, and the program is operating well again. It would be an odd reversal to move the child support program back to the very agency which couldn't previously handle the job.
Another reason one might be in favor of abolishing the State Treasurer would be to shrink the size of government, however, abolishing the Treasurer's office will not accomplish this goal. The main function of the Treasurer can be described as handling the state's checkbook, and if the Treasurer was abolished the Department of Revenue would likely assume this responsibility. In the past four years the number of employees in the Treasurer's office has decreased from sixty-five to fifty-five. During that same period the number of employees in the Department of Revenue has increased from 470 to 511. Shane Osborn has done a good job as our State Treasurer, literally doing more with less. Further, the employees of the Treasurer's office are non-union employees while a number of employees within the Department of Revenue are union employees. All things being equal, it is generally more costly to employ union employees, and it is generally more difficult to eliminate union employee positions. If the goal in abolishing the Treasurer's office is to shrink government, history and hard numbers seem to indicate we would be going in precisely the wrong direction by shutting down the elected Treasurer in favor of the Department of Revenue.
Lastly, I hope Nebraskans will recognize that by abolishing the State Treasurer we would be effectively taking power away from ourselves and transferring that power to the bureaucracy. He who manages Nebraska's checkbook is an elected Treasurer we voters can either retain or retire every four years. Should we abolish this office, we would be transferring Nebraska's checkbook to an unelected bureaucrat who is not directly accountable to voters. If the state's primary fiduciary is not required to stand before the voters in an election, an important power will have been stripped from the people. Nebraskans should vote against Amendment 2.
Tony Fulton is a Nebraska state senator representing district 29 in the legislature.
A different version of this editorial appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star as a Letter to the Editor on today (Friday, October 29) on THIS PAGE of the site.
Nebraskans should not abolish the office of state treasurer. It is presumed that it will streamline government by consolidating responsibilities and reducing bureaucracy. Further examination reveals that Amendment 2 could create a reality opposite from its intention, delivering a government more bloated and less accountable than before.
Governmental functions once underperforming in other agencies have been successful once becoming the treasurer's duty. The Department of Health and Human Services was given responsibility for child support payments after federal welfare reform in 1996, but it was never able to do the task. Child support became the treasurer's duty, and the program is operating well there. It would be an odd reversal to move the child support program back to the very agency that could not previously handle the job.
If the treasurer's office were abolished, the Department of Revenue may assume the treasurer's handling of the state's checkbook. Since 2006, the treasurer's office has diminished by 10 employees. The Department of Revenue has grown by more than 40 employees in the same period. Further, the employees of the treasurer's office are not unionized, while many employees within the Department of Revenue are union employees, who are generally more costly and more difficult to eliminate.
If the goal is to shrink government, the numbers indicate that we would be going in precisely the wrong direction by shutting down the elected treasurer in favor of the Department of Revenue.
By abolishing the treasurer, we would be effectively taking power away from ourselves and transferring it to the bureaucracy.
If the state's primary fiduciary is not required to stand before the voters in an election, an important power will have been stripped from the people. Nebraskans should vote against Amendment 2.
Sen. Tony Fulton, Lincoln