- Associated Press - Monday, February 9, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin’s secretary of state sent a letter Monday asking Gov. Scott Walker to drop his proposal to nearly halve the secretary’s budget and staff, saying the cut would be devastating for an office that files and maintains state records.

Walker’s state budget proposal includes a provision to cut the secretary of state office’s annual budget by 48 percent during the next two years and eliminate two of its four full-time positions, saving the state nearly $500,000.

Secretary of State Doug La Follette asked in his letter that Walker maintain the current staff and structure of the office that processes more than 15,000 annual requests to authenticate documents required for trade, travel, adoptions and education, and generates $259,000 in revenue.

La Follette, a Democrat, said in a phone interview Monday that his office already struggles with its workload and that working with a decreased staff “would be a train wreck, an absolute train wreck.”

Walker’s budget calls for reducing the budget for La Follette’s office by $490,000 and moving the staff members to an office in the capitol basement.

In a statement Monday, Walker’s spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said the cut was intended to make government “more efficient, more effective and more accountable.”

In 2013, the Legislature stripped the secretary of his power to publish bills after La Follette lagged in publishing Walker’s signature collective bargaining law in 2011. La Follette addressed that dispute in his letter to Walker.

“You and I may have our disagreements over some issues in the past, but this conversation … is not about you and me,” La Follette wrote.

Lawmakers will work on Walker’s budget proposal and submit a final version this summer.

Unlike most states, the secretary of state in Wisconsin is not responsible for running elections. Walker advocated for eliminating the position in 2010 and has stripped away funding and responsibilities from the office ever since.

A constitutional amendment to eliminate the office was introduced in 2011, but it didn’t pass the Legislature. An amendment would have to pass the Legislature in two consecutive sessions and be approved by voters before the office could be eliminated.

La Follette said he hopes Wisconsin residents will support him in asking Walker to drop the cuts.

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Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bydanaferguson .


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