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Does Nebraska need a state treasurer?

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Nebraska State Treasurer, a Constitutional office, is it needed? That is a question Legislative Resolution 284 CA, introduced by Sen. Utter, seeks to discover. The resolution would put on the next general election ballot an option for voters in Nebraska to amend the Constitution of Nebraska and abolish this statewide elected office.

The Legislature will begin debating LR 284 CA Tuesday, March 9. It should be a very interesting discussion, between those who believe the Treasurer is duplication and its functions could be delegated to the Department of Revenue and other agencies, and those who believe the Treasurer brings a necessary balance of power, acting as another check and balance for the proper functioning of government. Right now, I tend to lean towards the latter, a proper balance of power in government.

Of course, the primary responsibility of the Treasurer is treasury management, in many ways acting as the State's banker. The Treasurer is also responsible for the Unclaimed Property program, the Nebraska College Savings program, the State Disbursement Unit for child support payment, the Long-Term Care Savings Plan, and the new Nebraskaspending.gov website created in the Taxpayer Transparency Act.

According to information I received from the Treasurer's office, there are 1720 sections of our law referencing the Nebraska State Treasurer and an average of a hundred bills per biennium that have made it to final reading in the last three Legislatures, which reference the State Treasurer. Though most of those references probably deal with the management of specific funds, there is much to think through about unintended consequences of such a big change.

The big question I think is not can we do this, but should we do this? From what I know now, I do not think there will be much savings from this move, because you will still need many of the same people to do much of the same work.

Most importantly, I am concerned that there might be too much consolidation of power over the people's money coming to the state. Potentially having one department responsible for the administration of state taxes and management of state funds might lead to too much influence by the Governor or an appointee; problems could appear down the road. Independent responsibilities, and checks and balances are important when it comes to the proper handling of money.

More figures from the Treasurer's office show a decrease of 11.88% in their budget and a 22% decrease in staff in the last four years. Will we actually see significant savings from abolishing this office? I do not think so. However, I will listen intently to the proponents of the resolution as the debate unfolds.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding these bills or any issue please call my office at 402-471-2805 or for more information you can view my legislative website at http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist44/

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Interesting proposal. I have to admit I am not well versed in the workings of the Treasurer and the office. I will say that I prefer an elected Official that is accountable to the electorate to an apointee that is not.

-- Posted by Chaco1 on Mon, Mar 8, 2010, at 8:54 PM

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State Sen. Mark Christensen
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