The Assembly Committee on State Affairs held a public hearing last Thursday morning on Assembly Joint Resolution 48, which would eliminate the positions of Secretary of State and State Treasurer. AJR 48 would amend the state’s constitution to delete the two positions and replace them on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, which administers the Common School Fund, with the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Lieutenant Governor.
Kathy Sanders of WEMTA and Paul Nelson of WLA both testified against the proposal due to its possible impact on the Common School Fund.
Representative Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh) and Senator Rick Gudex (R-Fond du Lac), the resolution’s authors, testified that AJR-48 would save taxpayers money by eliminating positions that have very little to do. They said their goal in introducing the legislation is to streamline and modernize state government.
Representatives Penny Bernard Schaber (D-Appleton), Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) and Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) raised concerns about the Resolution’s effect on the Common School Fund and Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL).
Swearingen said that if the Resolution damages the BCPL in any way, he cannot support the bill until those issues are fixed. Bernard Schaber raised concerns that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction would have a conflict of interest in serving on the Board due to his role in school funding.
Schraa argued that the Board is not being threatened by the Resolution since all it does is change its membership. He also asserted that the State Superintendent would be a good addition to the Board because the position would have the best knowledge of education funding.
Current State Treasurer Kurt Schuller and Secretary of State Doug La Follette were not in attendance, but did provide written statements to the Committee. You can view their remarks here and here.
Schuller, who previously advocated for the deletion of the two offices, has not taken a formal position on AJR-48. However, Deputy State Treasurer Scott Feldt published an op-ed in Municipal Finance Today advocating for the retention of the State Treasurer position.
"I make no apologies for what I attempted however, I see now it was an effort fated to fail," wrote Schuller of his efforts to delete his position in his statement to the Committee. "I do believe this office can continue to play an important financial role in Wisconsin’s government with the support of the Governor, legislature and voting public."
Mark Hazelbaker, formerly of the Wisconsin Counties Association, testified in favor of the proposal but cautioned that the roles on the BCPL should not be transferred lightly since management of the Common School Fund is very important. He proposed creating one commissioner to administer BCPL trust funds and limiting the term to 10 years.
Also Testifying against: Roger Luce of the Oneida County Economic Development Corporation. Jaime Aulik of the Wisconsin County Clerk Association. Jack Voight, former state treasurer.
Testifying in Favor: Ron Bishop, current candidate for Secretary of State. Jay Schroeder, private citizen.
RELATED NEWS: Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who also sits on the BCPL, announced today that he will not seek re-election.