Wisconsin Referendum on Elimination of State Treasurer

What it will say on the ballot

At the April 3 Spring Election, all Wisconsin voters will be asked to vote on the question:

Elimination of state treasurer. Shall sections 1 and 3 of article VI and sections 7 and 8 of article X of the constitution be amended, and section 17 of article XIV of the constitution be created, to eliminate the office of state treasurer from the constitution and to replace the state treasurer with the lieutenant governor as a member of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands?

Some history

The Wisconsin Constitution contains the following language: “The qualified electors of this state . . . shall . . .every 4 years . . . elect a secretary of state, treasurer and attorney general who shall hold their offices for 4 years. The powers, duties and compensation of the treasurer and attorney general shall be prescribed by law.”

The state treasurer is a partisan office. The current duties prescribed by Wisconsin law include signing certain checks and financial instruments and helping to publicize the state’s unclaimed property program (the program is managed and advertised by the Department of Revenue). Per the constitution, the treasurer serves along with the attorney general and secretary of state on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands.

The Board manages the state’s remaining trust lands (more than 77,000 acres of forest), manages trust funds (more than $1 billion) primarily for the benefit of public education, and maintains the state’s archive of 19th-century land survey and land sales records.

Historically, the treasurer had custody of state funds, including state investments; handled receipts and payments of the State Fair; notified utility companies to pay taxes to the treasurer’s office; settled with each county treasurer for the state’s share of taxes; and made financial reports to the governor. Successive legislatures have assigned these duties to state agencies, primarily the Departments of Administration and Revenue.

Currently the only employee of the treasurer’s office is the state treasurer, whose annual salary is approximately $70,000. The total office budget is approximately $113,500 per year.

What this referendum vote would do

This amendment would complete the transfer of financial duties from an independent elected official to agencies under the control of the governor. Supporters of the amendment contend that there are no remaining responsibilities that justify a separate office. Opponents are concerned about the consolidation of power in the executive branch. 

Two successive legislatures voted to put this question to voters (as required by the Wisconsin Constitution).

For additional background information, see Ballotopedia; search “Wisconsin State Treasurer Amendment”

What a Yes or No vote means

A “Yes” vote means the voter agrees that the constitutional position of state treasurer should be abolished. 

A “No” vote means the voter wants to retain the constitutional position of state treasurer.