By Sarah Godlewski
There is a common misconception that the only duty left by law to Wisconsin’s state treasurer is serving on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. While politicians and pundits have stated this as fact, it’s simply not true. The treasurer is responsible for doing so much more and we owe it to Wisconsinites to make sure that this office fulfills its statutory requirements. On my first day as treasurer, I’m ready to get to work on your behalf and do what this office should have been doing for our state all along.
Wisconsin voters spoke clearly last April when 62% of you voted to save this office. That vote was a clear mandate for change. In fact, there were places in our state where more voters showed up to cast a vote on the Treasurer’s Office than in the Supreme Court race. Wisconsinites deserve to see the Treasurer’s Office serve in its full capacity as your fiscal watchdog.
Here is something most people don’t realize about the office—there are dozens of responsibilities in state statute that remain the duty of the state treasurer, a fact validated by the state’s non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau. It includes serving as the treasurer on our state investment board and our employee trust fund board, as well as working in cooperation with the Governor’s Office to ensure effective financial management for the state. This office must start upholding the law to ensure checks and balances for our state’s financial well-being.
One of the most important and far-reaching roles of this office is signing the state’s checkbook. The state treasurer’s signature is on millions of checks every year that are disbursed by the State of Wisconsin. Medicaid payments, state employee paychecks, tax refund checks and more, all bear the endorsement of the treasurer. Recently, this office hasn’t taken any role in monitoring the use of that signature and has instead trusted other agencies to distribute and use this signature without oversight by the treasurer.
Like any Wisconsinite, I would never sign a blank check from my personal checkbook, and I will not do that with the people’s checkbook either. That’s why we already met with the incoming Department of Administration secretary, and I look forward to tackling these issues together.
We’ve seen multiple incidents of financial mismanagement recently. Here are two from last year alone: $600,000 was overpaid in Medicaid and more than $400,000 was double paid to a contractor working with the Department of Transportation. We must be able to trust that our tax dollars are used carefully, and I will ensure that we use the power of this office to develop guardrails around the use of our state’s checkbook and begin to improve fraud and counterfeit prevention procedures.
The Treasurer’s office can do so much more to protect our tax dollars and provide greater transparency and accountability. I’m excited to work alongside Gov.-elect Evers and the Legislature to fill the role that lawmakers set out for this office since the founding of our state in 1848. We have the opportunity to create a new legacy of good government for our state. And as your new state treasurer, I promise to get to work on day one.