Yesterday on my radio show I had the three candidates for state Treasurer on for a debate. One of these candidates – Democratic challenger Tim Mathern, who is also a state Senator from Fargo – wants to close the office down.
“We have too many state agencies dealing with our,” Mathern said, arguing that the duties of the Treasurer’s office could be transferred to other entities such as the Bank of North Dakota and the Office of Management and Budget.
Incumbent Republican Kelly Schmidt disagreed, arguing that Mathern has a “lack of understanding on how our offices work together.” She added that in 1999 the state Legislature passed a constitutional amendment to eliminate the office, something Mathern voted against at the time as a member of the Senate, and the voters rejected the proposal as well.
For his part Libertarian challenger Eric Olson said he’d be fine with getting rid of the office, but argued that decision was one for the Legislature and the people to make.
I asked Mathern about his previous vote in favor of keeping the Treasurer’s office. “Many things have changed since 2000,” he said, stating his belief that technology has made made of the functions of the office unnecessary.
The other big topic of the discussion was transparency. During her time in office Schmidt has adding some things to the Treasurer’s Office website such as the laundry list of the State of North Dakota’s various funds and their most recent balance reports, but Olson said he’d like to do more. He’d like to see an “immutable public register” of all spending done by the state, improving upon a somewhat wonky if usable iteration of the same currently run on the OMB website.
“I could not agree more with Eric,” Schmidt said in response to this proposal, though noted that her office is “very limited” on what it can do without authorization from the Legislature.
Here’s the full audio of the debate: