How to save taxpayers money

February 24, 1993

Winfield M. Kelly Jr. has now given Gov. William Donald Schaefer the perfect opportunity to save the taxpayers money while downsizing and reorganizing government. Mr. Kelly is resigning his job as secretary of state, a $70,000-a-year sinecure that Mr. Schaefer ought to target for abolition.

The concept of a Maryland secretary of state is outdated. Why pay someone $70,000 a year for a glorified clerical job? The office serves as a repository for an array of documents and registration forms that must be filed with the state by charities, condominiums, notaries and cemetery owners -- and all of this is already handled by staff bureaucrats. Taxpayers ought to insist that the office be downsized and shorn of its costly trappings.

The easiest way to accomplish this is to eliminate the position of secretary of state and turn these duties over to the lieutenant governor. A bill in the state Senate already proposes this precise step: It requires a constitutional amendment and an affirmative vote of the public, but the cost savings and increased efficiencies make an overwhelming case for passage.

Right now, the lieutenant governor has no legal responsibilities. All the state constitution says is, "There shall be a lieutenant governor, who shall have only the duties delegated to him by the governor. . ." The real purpose of the job is to ensure there is someone in the line of succession should something happen to the governor.

Since the lieutenant governor is bereft of all responsibility, why not at least let him take over the secretary of state's limited duties? It wouldn't take much time but it would enable the governor to lop off a handful of executive-level jobs, proving to taxpayers that government can be downsized and also made more efficient.

One step would be for Mr. Schaefer to endorse Senate Bill 368 and reduce the status of the secretary of state's job by naming someone who would be willing to serve in that post for $1 a year. fTC Any number of friends of the governor would be happy to accept this honor. Turning the post into a voluntary job would prepare the state for abolition of the office following the 1994 election.

If Governor Schaefer is serious about curbing unnecessary government expenses and streamlining state government, here's an easy way to accomplish both goals. The lieutenant governor can oversee the executive department's clerical duties just as easily as the secretary of state. We certainly don't need both.

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