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LETTER: Close the state treasurer’s office once and for all

By Staff | Feb 10, 2017

Close the state treasurer’s office once and for all

As a candidate for the office of State Treasurer during the last election, I highlighted the inefficiency and redundancy of the treasurer’s office. This helped start a conversation about the need to eliminate redundant government functions and close the treasurer’s office once and for all.

At the start of the current legislative session, the issue of closing the treasure’s office once again came to light. HCR 3004 is a resolution, with Republican and Democratic-NPL sponsorship, that would allow the voters to decide whether the treasurer’s office should be shuttered. Our state is facing a severe budget crisis – not just the result of falling commodity prices, but also of massive tax cuts for out-of-state corporations – and we must refocus on getting the job done right. Instead of the across-the-board cuts the Legislature is considering, which will weaken every department of our government, we must carefully identify and eliminate redundancies and increase efficiencies.

Closing the treasurer’s office is a commonsense way to do this. Just as threshing machines have been replaced by the combine, and phone booths have been replaced by cell phones, most financial transactions have become automated. Our current state treasurer – who may be a dedicated public servant, but serves in an outdated office – argued that her office is necessary, in part, because it oversees 34 different checking accounts. She explained that if the treasurer’s officer is shuttered, these 34 accounts would simply be transferred to different state agencies, and thus, no new savings would be realized because no government functions would be eliminated.

My argument is not that we should transfer oversight of these 34 checking accounts to another agency. My argument is that this function of government is no longer necessary and should be eliminated entirely. Of course, eliminating functions and closing the treasure’s office won’t single-handedly solve North Dakota’s budget crisis. But it’s a first step toward using taxpayer dollars more wisely to help solve issues that simply cannot be ignored – issues like the state’s growing addiction crisis, cuts to education funding, and preventing the governor’s proposed tax on seniors to pay for nursing home care.

Now is the time to change; doing it gradually with planning, discussion, and then action. This change goes beyond ideology and partisanship, as evidenced by the bipartisan support for HCR 3004. It is about rightsizing government in a practical and reasonable way, and it’s about getting the job done right when it comes to solving our budget crisis. Change is part of our daily lives, and we must start to embrace it in our government too.

Mathern, of Edgeley, is the Democratic-NPL party senator for Disttrict 11.

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