It sounds like a headline from the Wisconsin-based, satirical newspaper, The Onion, but it’s real. The newly-elected State Treasure of Wisconsin, Matt Adamczyk, has vowed to eliminate what he sees as government waste in the Badger State, and he’s starting with his own position. Adamczyk won the position in November, winning just 49 percent of the vote. He was sworn in on January 5, and has wasted no time getting rid of “government waste.”
The Office of the State Treasurer – despite its majestic name – is literally powerless. Almost all of the office’s duties have been transferred to other state agencies, such as the Department of Revenue. Just about the only real duty the State Treasurer currently has left is to help supervise a small agency labeled the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands.
The first week in office, Matt Adamczyk fired and eliminated the two assistant positions in the State Treasurer’s office, saying they were a waste of taxpayer money and no longer needed.
Getting rid of his own position, however, is harder than it sounds. Elimination of the State Treasurer’s position requires a constitutional amendment, something that technically can’t happen until 2017 – and that’s only if the State Legislature approves it.
In the meantime, State Treasurer Adamczyk says he’ll eliminate waste where he can.
“I’m a big believer in efficiency. I’ve always just thought that this office doesn’t really have any duties left.”
Adamczyk says that the elimination of his own employees alone will save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, Adamczyk is focusing on the small stuff for the time being. An unused printer in his office has been boxed up to be returned. Several laptop cases that belong to “no one” are stacked up ready to be removed. Adamczyk says he spent almost an entire day on the phone with Verizon trying to figure out why his office had more active cellphone contracts than employees.
The new State Treasurer pointed out several more examples of government waste around the office. He pulled out several blue piggy banks out of a cardboard box with the department’s name printed on the side. “Do we need these?” Adamczyk asks. “No. We don’t.”
The treasurer pulled a brand new iPhone – still sealed in plastic – out of another box. “This was a ‘floater phone.’ No one ever used it. It cost $58 a month. You almost can’ t make this stuff up.”
Some of what Adamczyk is in the process of getting rid of has no opposition from either side of the aisle. However, some of what is being proposed by the new State Treasurer, is being condemned by both sides of the aisle.
Mr. Adamczyk has apparently been targeting Tia Nelson, a state official that heads an agency which helps supervise the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, (as mentioned above, this is a board the State Treasurers Office also still has a stake in). Ms. Nelson is the daughter of Gaylord Nelson, a former governor of Wisconsin and the U.S. Senator known for creating Earth Day.
According to public records, Mr. Adamczyk has repeatedly asked how Tia Nelson’s agency spends money. Additionally, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that he tried to force Ms. Nelson to remove her name from the agency’s letterhead but was overruled by the other board members. He also questioned the subscriptions Ms. Nelson’s agency paid out for. Her agency reportedly subscribes to the Wisconsin State Journal and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – neither of which were considered a problem. The problem was the agency’s subscription to The New York Times.
Adamczyk relayed his anger in a memo to Ms. Nelson.
“I am beyond disappointed in this expense. This is simply a want and NOT A NEED.”
Jack Voight, a Republican who was the state treasurer from 1995 to 2007, said the current state treasurer’s attacks on Ms. Nelson’s agency is a “witchhunt.” Voight spoke about Ms. Nelson.
“She did a great job when I was there, and I think she has continued to do a great job. She has never exhibited any political leanings whatsoever in that office.”
Ms. Nelson also defended her own agency.
“The history of Wisconsin’s Board of Commissioners of Public Lands is a rare and enviable story of government success, unique in this country. Ours is the oldest state agency and one of the smallest, yet, with bipartisan support — a staff of 10 and not a penny of taxpayer money, we serve the people of Wisconsin at an operational efficiency unmatched in the private sector.”
Mr. Adamczyk has vowed to return 25 percent of his $69,936 salary to the state of Wisconsin, as soon as he figures out a way to do it.
[Image via WPT]