It wasn’t hard to forecast the likely outcome of a House vote today on HCR3004, a proposed constitutional amendment which would have eliminated the State Treasurer’s Office.
Back during last year’s election cycle Democrat state Senator Tim Mathern campaigned for Treasurer against incumbent Republican Kelly Schmidt on a platform made up of exactly one plank. Eliminating the office.
He didn’t even get 30 percent of the vote.
In addition to that data point, earlier this month the state House voted to approve, by a wide margin, legislation moving the handling of abandoned property in our state to the Treasurer’s Office. It seems unlikely that lawmakers would vote to give more duties to an office they were planning to eliminate.
And it was unlikely. When HCR3004, which was sponsored by Rep. Mike Nathe (R-Bismarck), came to the floor it got a 18-68 no vote. A companion resolution, HCR3005 which would have launched a study in where to assign the Treasurer’s current duties if the office were eliminated, subsequently failed on a 9-77 vote.
“There is no duplication of duties,” Rep. Vernon Lanning (R-Bismarck) told the House floor while carrying his committee’s “do not pass” recommendation.
Nathe, though, said the voters should get the chance to “have a hand in shrinking government.”
He said the House Appropriations Committee is having to “make a lot of hard decisions” on spending, and that eliminating the Treasurer’s office should be one of those decisions.
But Rep. Jim Kasper (R-Fargo) pointed out that the $2 million Treasurer’s Office budget is tiny compared to the rest of the state’s budget.
“C’mon,” he said in response to Nathe’s assertion of savings. “That’s ridiculous.”
I like Nathe’s push to streamline state government. It’s in line with what Governor Doug Burgum has called for, but I’m not sure that eliminating the Treasurer’s Office is the right way to go about it. If anything, I feel like there are many things we could do with the Treasurer’s Office such as move some of the OMB’s handling of state spending transparency over to it.
In Ohio the State Treasurer operates a truly fantastic database of state spending. North Dakota should do the same.
Schmidt has done a great job of making her office efficient. Her budget has grown by just 1 percent since 2000, a claim no other department in state government can make. Rather than erase that success, why not build on it?