Melinda Wheeler's good idea would be a good start
Even before Melinda Wheeler announced that her key platform in her race for the GOP nomination for state treasurer would be to abolish the office, we’d been considering a couple of things.
First was our support for Wheeler. Of the four Republicans seeking the nomination, her administrative experience is a plus. And, the other three are state representatives and two of them (Brandon Smith and Lonnie Napier) are not in safe Republican districts. Should either of them win, the odds are good that their vacated House seat would go to a Democrat. (Plus, we got our fill of Lonnie Napier four years ago when he supported Steve Nunn over Ernie Fletcher in the governor’s race). We’re also fond of Brett Hall,
But the other thing we’ve been considering is how most of those constitutional offices that Kentucky voters fill when the cast their gubernatorial ballots should be abolished, or made appointive rather than elective.
Gov. Fletcher alluded to the same sentiment last year when he made comments about appointing the attorney general. Because Fletcher was still locking horns with Greg Stumbo over the personnel investigation, the idea didn’t gain any traction.
But it’s definitely an idea worth looking into.
If we had our way, the following changes would be made to the offices for which Kentucky now holds statewide election:
Lieutenant Governor: We have never been fans of the “slate” concept, especially this time since the governor has been saddled with a disloyal lieutenant governor that he is powerless to get rid of. If we have to have a slate, at least let the LG serve at the pleasure of the governor and give the governor the authority to fire him.
Attorney General and Auditor: These are supposed to be the watchdog agencies, but sometimes the dog goes rabid. That happened this time, when Stumbo pushed forth a political agenda against Fletcher using the investigative power of his office. We recommend that the governor appoint these two officials, who would serve at the pleasure of the governor but would be subject to confirmation by one or both houses of the General Assembly. The federal government chooses Cabinet members, including the United States attorney general, by this method, and we think it would be appropriate for Kentucky. An independently confirmed auditor and attorney general would assure an appropriate level of separation from the governor and would give the public confidence that any substantial allegations of wrongdoing would be looked into.
Secretary of State and State Treasurer: These offices should be abolished and the duties distributed among the various existing state agencies. For example, the secretary of state’s election oversight duties could be transferred to the Registry of Election Finance. The treasurer’s duties would fit properly with Revenue.
Commissioner of Agriculture: Why do we continue to elect this commissioner? This is the only department commissioner that is chosen by the voters. We don’t pick a commissioner of highways or a commissioner of property taxation. Let this position become a gubernatorial appointment. That would give the added benefit of doing away with the Governor’s Office of Agriculture Policy since the Department of Agriculture would come under the governor’s control.
We have one more suggestion to save the state some money.
Remember a few years ago when local officials served one five-year term in order to allow the state to eliminate an election cycle?
We think that at some point in the near future, the governor and lieutenant governor (and any other officeholders elected this year) should serve one five-year term to eliminate this election cycle, and make Kentucky’s gubernatorial race correspond to the presidential election year. This would set Kentucky’s election cycle for every other year in even-numbered years, and save the state and local governments the costs of holding elections three out of every four years.
We believe these changes would improve government responsiveness and efficiency in Kentucky and we urge those in charge of such things to give these ideas an open-minded look.