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Candidates running for treasurer hoping to restore office's powers

Updated: 3:49 p.m. April 4, 2018

MADISON, Wis. (AP ) -- The Republican who abruptly dropped out of the race for state treasurer says he doesn't have time to campaign.

Tom Hiller said in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday afternoon that he had withdrawn from the race. He didn't offer any explanation in the message but said in a follow-up email that he's happy in his profession as an investment manager and he doesn't have time to campaign full-time.

Hiller's decision leaves Democrat Sarah Godlewski the only registered candidate in the race.

Wisconsin voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a proposal constitutional amendment that would have eliminated the treasurer's office. Hiller and Godlewski both said Wednesday morning that voters want to preserve the office and give it more powers.

 

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Posted: 12:59 p.m. April 4, 2018

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Voters clearly want lawmakers to restore the state treasurer's powers after resoundingly rejecting a constitutional amendment that would have eliminated the diminished office, both candidates running for the position said Wednesday.

Republican Tom Hiller, a Madison investment manager, said he's glad he still has an office to run for and that voters chose financial accountability over a consolidation of power. He said the amendment's defeat signals that voters want the office to be of use again, and he'd like to see the treasurer act as the state's chief banker and take over tax collection duties from the Department of Revenue.

"If you say we have this position, it's constitutionally required, it's what the voters want, you have an argument to make it strong again," Hiller said. "If we have it, we need to use it."

Democrat Sarah Godlewski, an Eau Claire management consultant who entered the race last week, echoed her opponent's sentiments, saying people want an independent entity to track their tax dollars.

"To me, this was a resounding 'no' because (voters) want checks and balances. They want that fiscal watchdog that can be their independent advocate. What's next is restoring the power this office has," said Godlewski, who traveled the state with former Treasurer Jack Voight to urge people to save the office.

Hiller and Godlewski are the only candidates running for the office so far. Incumbent Republican Matt Adamczyk has chosen to run for the state Assembly.

The treasurer's office dates back to Wisconsin's territorial days. It once had extensive powers, including collecting taxes, depositing checks and withdrawing money.

Republicans began pushing to weaken the office in the late-1990s under then-Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Their efforts gained momentum when the GOP seized complete control of state government in 2011.

The office's cash management functions and control of the EdVest college savings program moved to the Department of Administration and the Department of Revenue took over the treasurer's unclaimed property division.

The office's budget has shrunk from $4.4 million and 23 ½ staff in 1995 to $227,000 and one staff member in the current two-year state budget.

The treasurer's only real remaining duty is serving on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, which is a little known entity that manages trust funds built through fees, fines and land sales.

Republicans pushed a constitutional amendment eliminating the office to a statewide referendum in Tuesday's elections, but voters overwhelmingly rejected it. Unofficial returns showed that about 61 percent of voters checked "no."

Adamczyk supported the proposed amendment. He said in a statement that the question of whether the office should be scrapped is now settled and it will be up to future legislators to decide the treasurer's duties.

State Rep. Michael Schraa and state Sen. Dan Feyen, the two Republican lawmakers who spearheaded the proposed amendment, didn't immediately respond to phone messages Wednesday.

Schraa has said if voters rejected the amendment, he would work to restore the office's responsibilities but that he wasn't sure what duties to bestow on the office.

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