Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

February 6, 2014

Downsizing treasurer a good idea

Value of some local elected offices worth re-evaluating as well

Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — The Republican-controlled state Senate passed a bill this week that would allow voters to consider a constitutional amendment to abolish the treasurer’s office.

The crux of the proposal by Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Latonia, is that the treasurer’s office does little that isn’t also done by the Finance and Administration Cabinet. So, McDaniel wants to redistribute the treasurer’s duties to the finance cabinet and the state auditor’s office.

Senate Bill 58 still must survive the House, where Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, says he’s open to the concept of dumping the treasurer’s office. We hope that’s what happens. And if it does, we hope Kentucky voters reach the same conclusion.

If eliminating the treasurer saves taxpayers a little money, terrific. But in our view, that would simply be a bonus – the real benefit would be the opportunity for state government to serve its citizens more efficiently and less redundantly.

Those who want to spare the treasurer argue that the office is a financial watchdog for the executive branch, or the decision maker when the legislature struggles to reach a budget deal in time for bills to be paid. But again, the point of SB58 is that these roles aren’t – and don’t have to be – exclusive to the treasurer’s office.

We agree. And while we’re weighing the fate of the state treasurer, let’s consider opportunities to tighten the local government organizational chart as well.

For instance, the push to eliminate or sharply limit the position of constable in Kentucky has persisted for years, a move that polls suggest is supported by many county officials around the state. Reps. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, and Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, have introduced House Bill 158, which would send to voters a constitutional amendment giving counties the option to suspend the largely unnecessary – and sometimes troublesome – law enforcement position.

Sounds like a good plan to us, and we wouldn’t mind seeing a similar proposal directed at the county jailer’s office. Considering the jailer’s duties, we see little reason why the position needs to be an elected position to begin with. And in counties with no detention facility, there’s not much reason for a jailer to exist at all. In such places, the jailer primarily is responsible for transporting prisoners to and from court – or, by law, the fiscal court might tap the jailer to provide maintenance at county buildings. Hardly the sort of stuff that demands an election. Giving counties the opportunity to decide for themselves whether the office is needed – rather than a blanket statewide decree – seems like a reasonable solution.

Finally, as Glasgow prepares to elect its city council and mayor in November, now’s as good a time as any to take a fresh look at the makeup of the council. We are convinced that a 12-member council – plus a mayor – is overkill in a city of Glasgow’s size. We believe reducing the number of council members would streamline the functioning of city government, increase the degree of difficulty in winning a seat and boost the level of accountability that comes with being a council member.

For several years, workplaces across America have endured the pinch and pain of tightened belts and organizational realignments during an economic downturn. While we recognize that government can’t always run like business, we believe elected offices should be subject to the same discussions about improving performance, efficiency and effectiveness.

Elected offices aren’t sacred, and if eliminating or limiting a few of them results in government that better serves its citizens, we see no point in stubbornly clinging to outdated and obsolete political traditions.