One of two state Senate Republicans who voted against a measure to amend the state constitution to eliminate the state treasurer position is from Lake Country.
Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) of the 33rd State Senate District voted against the measure, along with Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls), but their votes weren't enough, as the state Senate voted 18-15 Tuesday, March 7, for the amendment. The state Assembly approved the measure, 68-31, two days later. Since the measure passed both houses of the legislature, state residents will vote on it in a referendum in April 2018.
Changes to the state Constitution must be approved by both houses of the legislature and voters in a statewide referendum.
State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk was elected in November 2014 on a promise to eliminate the position, whose duties have gradually been stripped away and given to other agencies, such as the department of administration and department of revenue.
"I'm concerned about pulling a constitutionally authorized office away because I like having separation of powers," Kapenga said in an interview with Now Media Group. "I like having independence. This is a role that, if you look at a lot of other states, they use it so that you can have good independent transparency into the government, into the finances of a government."
”I have concerns with eliminating a constitutional office that has the potential to be an effective, impartial watchdog on budgetary matters,” Kapenga said in a statement after the vote.
Kapenga said he tries not to worry about how his Republican colleagues vote.
"I try not to base my vote on what my colleagues (vote), I try to base my vote on what's the best for my district and where I stand on issues," Kapenga said.
Kapenga said the office should be strengthened rather than eliminated.
"I think we should strengthen the office, not take it away," Kapenga said. "It's one thing to take things out of statute and change statute, but this is the constitution, and I think it's at a different level. Your principles are in the constitution, and your policies in the statutes. I believe in the fundamental principles of transparency for taxpayers. That's why I wasn't comfortable with the vote (for the amendment)."
Kapenga said people can educate themselves on the issue by reaching out to his office and by seeing what other states do.
Former state Treasurer Jack Voight was upset about the news that the state Senate voted to eliminate the office. Voight served from 1995 until 2007.
“Oh, God,” Voight said when contacted with the news. “I plan to fight this to the bitter end saying they have abandoned the checks and balances put in place by our state constitutional committee back in 1848.”
Voight said opponents of the amendment will make the case to the public to undo “the injustice” done by the Senate vote. “This isn’t over yet,” Voight said.
James Wigderson from Watchdog.org contributed to this report.