On November 2, Nebraska voters will head to the polls with the option of eliminating the position of State Treasurer. Since I was sworn into this office four years ago, I have come to realize just how significant a role the State Treasurer plays within our government. If the position is eliminated, I do not believe there will be any legitimate cost savings to the taxpayers of Nebraska. If anything, the state will suffer due to loss of transparency and accountability within government. It will certainly not accomplish its perceived goal of minimizing government.
Although I have chosen not to run for re-election, I feel that it is my duty to echo the sentiments of Governor and former Treasurer Dave Heineman, US Senator Mike Johanns, and former Nebraska Governors Kay Orr and Charles Thone, in encouraging Nebraskans to vote against Amendment 2, and against the elimination of the position of State Treasurer in Nebraska.
Proponents of Amendment 2 claim that it will 'right-size' our government, and make it more efficient and responsive. But remember that the duties performed by the Treasurer's office, such as the management of the State Treasury, the overseeing of Nebraska's Long-Term Care Savings Plan, and 529 College Savings Plan, receiving and disbursing child support payments, returning unclaimed property to the people of Nebraska, and executing legislative directed transfers are all necessary endeavors and will not be eliminated if this amendment is passed. The only thing that will change is that an accountable, elected official with constitutional responsibilities and term limits will no longer manage and oversee these departments.
Proponents of this amendment are quick to point out that 13 states do not have an elected Treasurer. Many of those 13 states have a Treasurer, however that Treasurer may be appointed by either the Governor or the Legislature. An elected official is solely accountable to those who voted them into office; a level of accountability that will be completely lost if the elected position of State Treasurer is eliminated. If the position of State Treasurer is eliminated, the programs within the office and their existing employees may be reassigned, and dispersed throughout other state agencies. This could lead to other agencies adding employees in the coming years and consuming a lot of time, effort and money. That sounds more like adding to big government bureaucracy than streamlining to me.
If the position of Nebraska State Treasurer is removed from the constitution, who will do that work? And what will happen to the current employees in the office? Well, most likely they would be dispersed throughout other state agencies, but the truth is, we have no clear idea. Surprisingly, the amendment does not set forth a specific plan for eliminating the position, or how the duties would be reassigned. I have previously stated that I believe the time and expenses it would take to do so could very easily outweigh the benefits
Proponents have also claimed that the Treasurer's Office takes $23 million annually to run. This is a stretch of the truth. The Treasurer's yearly budget looks big; for the current fiscal year (ending June 30, 2011) it is $26,126,616. However, of that, $20,673,857 is money that is designated as aid which is sent to a variety of places: Rural Fire Protection, Natural Resource Districts, cities and counties. The aid payments for communities and organizations around the State will still be needed in Nebraska and will still be distributed, it will only be sent from a different state agency. Eliminating the position of State Treasurer will not eliminate the cost of these aid payments.
Amending the State Constitution to eliminate an elected official is not something to be taken lightly. I encourage you to vote against Amendment 2. I would suggest to the State Legislature that they take on a study if they wish to proceed with this effort, and to offer voters as much information as possible. I don't believe there is anything wrong with streamlining State Government, but I would like to see the projected savings and costs before casting my vote.