1:21pm

Sun January 1, 2012
All Politics are Local

State Senator at Odds With Treasurer

State Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, has prefiled legislation that would eliminate the constitutional office of state treasurer. The legislation proposes an amendment to the state constitution, which voters would have to decide on at the polls in November. The move echoes a campaign promise of Libertarian Ken Moellman, who ran against Republican K.C. Crosbie and incumbent Democrat Todd Hollenbach in the November election.

Hollenbach narrowly defeated Crosbie with 49 percent of the vote. Moellman took 5 percent.

Moellman said if he was elected he would eliminate the state treasurer’s office.

“The treasurer is a constitutional office whose duties do not justify a cost of nearly $3 million in the state budget,” Thayer said in a press release. “ The General Assembly needs to find cost savings within state government, especially in areas like this where this is a duplication of duties.”

Thayer said the state Finance Cabinet is already tasked with supervision of treasury employees on how to fill out checks and bookkeeping for the unclaimed property fund.

Hollenbach disagreed with Thayer’s characterization of his office.
“It wouldn’t save a dime of the people’s money,” Hollenbach said on Tuesday. “There’s not a job here that wouldn’t have to be performed if this office was eliminated. The work we do is probably more critical than any other office in a functioning state government.”

Hollenbach said eliminating the state treasurer’s office would remove a check and balance on spending from the governor’s office.

“You can’t separate the treasurer from checkbook and assign that to someone who answers to the governor,” Hollenbach said. “If I work for governor, I’m not a check on his spending authority.

“The only way to have a check on unauthorized executive spending is to have a person accountable to the people.”

Thayer disagreed with Hollenbach’s argument about treasury being a check on governor’s power.

“I don’t think the current or past holders of that office have done anything to be a check on executive spending,” he said. “Quite frankly, that’s the job of the General Assembly. Plus, we have an auditor who can audit the executive branch, the attorney general is supposed to investigate potential abuses of power.
“I don’t think we need a treasurer.”

Thayer also disagreed with Hollenbach’s assertion that eliminating the office would not reduce bureaucracy or cost.
“I’m not sure the six-figure salary we pay the treasurer is justified. I’m quite certain it’s not justified,” Thayer said. “There are 30 positions in that office. I’m certain many duties can be handled by finance without much difficulty.”

As of October 2010, Hollenbach’s salary was $108,720, according to a Courier-Journal database. The state’s own salary site, opendoor.ky.gov, listed his salary at $110,346.72, but it did not include a date.

Passage of the proposed bill would require that Kentucky’s voters decide in favor of or against the constitutional amendment. Hollenbach said that the issue has been put on the ballot before and voters have rejected elimination of the treasurer’s office.

Thayer said he wants voters to have a chance to be asked the question again.

“At the end of the day, it’s a constitutional office,” he said. “The voters deserve a chance to decide.”

Despite the fact that Thayer supported Crosbie in the campaign, the senator said he would have filed the legislation even if Crosbie had been successful in her bid for the office.

“She didn’t run on a platform of eliminating the office. She ran on a platform of making the office useful to taxpayers,” he said. “That office is either not being useful or has been used by past occupants to further their political careers. I think the duties are duplicative of what happens in the Finance Cabinet.”

The legislation will be discussed in the Senate’s state and local government committee, of which Thayer is chairman. He sponsored a similar bill in 2008. It passed the Senate, 23-12, split along party lines in that chamber. The bill died in committee in the House.