South Carolina’s treasurer is elected by voters, but the state’s top accountant– who once held the job– says that needs to change.
In a written response to a Senate committee request, Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom said he believes his office should be combined with the Treasurer’s Office in an effort to make both agencies more efficient.
Eckstrom spoke with SCRN Friday, saying both offices have duties that “bump up against one another.”
There’s just no reason in the world that we make the structure so complicated. We could streamline that process and, in doing that, we could reduce the cost of operating two separate offices.
Eckstrom says cutting back on administrative staff and combining the agencies will save badly-needed money. He also recommended giving the governor the power to appoint a director of the new, consolidated agency. Eckstrom says the Comptroller General position should be appointed, because the best accountants don’t always make the most appealing political candidates. He points out he’s the only CPA to ever hold the office.
There is the likelihood that the person elected to this office would be an attractive vote-getter and not a CPA… In the future, it ought to be held by a CPA. You can’t tell the voters that they have to vote for a CPA, but the governor can select one.
Eckstrom has served as Comptroller General since 2003. He also served as treasurer in the late 1990s.
A spokesman for current Treasurer Curtis Loftis said Loftis believes the position should be elected, adding that many other states also vote for the the job. In the past, Loftis has said elections keep him accountable to the citizens of South Carolina. The spokesman said Loftis also opposed merging the two offices.
Legislators are looking to combine several state agencies in a tight budget year. A bill that would merge the Cabinet-level Department of Corrections with the Department of Pardon, Probation, and Parole passed a House subcommittee last week.
However, combining the Comptroller General’s and Treasurer’s offices would need more than a legislative vote. Because both positions are elected, any attempt to take them off the ballot would require a constitutional referendum in the next election.
Such a change would also require reforming the state Budget & Control Board, which is a five-member panel that makes many of South Carolina’s financial decisions. Both the Comptroller General and Treasurer have votes on the board.