DALLAS -- Democratic Texas Treasurer Martha Whitehead, who retained her post by a narrow margin in elections this week, faces another challenge: keeping her promise to work for abolition of the state treasury.
Whitehead ran on a platform that called for elimination of her $79,000-a-year job and consolidating the treasury, which has 260 employees and an annual budget of about $11 million, with the Texas comptroller's office.
She maintained that staff reductions and efficiencies achieved by the merger would save $8 million a year. To save that money, she promised to draft a bill and support state legislation to do away with the state treasury in the legislative session that begins in January.
"I would hope that the legislature would pass such a bill by the required two-thirds vote, and then have the voters of Texas give us the final word on whether this agency is necessary," she said in a statement when she announced she was running for election last year.
However, her opponent in the election, David Hartman, a Republican and an Austin, Tex., banker, said he plans to challenge her again on the issue.
Hartman, who lost Tuesday with 49.7% of the vote to Whitehead's 50.3%, said the state has never proven that it can save $8 million a year by merging the treasury and the comptroller's office.
"There are no checks and balances at all," Hartman said. "I am going to do what I can do to stop it."
Hartman campaigned on making the state treasury a fiscal watchdog and expanding its role. 'There are no overlaps and duplications between the two agencies," he said. "It's another chapter in smoke and mirrors."
The Texas treasury invests about $15 billion in state funds, oversees the state's cash and securities and helps locate owners of unclaimed property. The primary responsibility of the comptroller's office is collecting taxes.
Whitehead, who was appointed treasurer last year when Kay Bailey Hutchison vacated the post for a U.S. Senate seat, was on vacation yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
In neighboring Oklahoma, a new state treasurer was elected to succeed Claudette Henry, who lost a Republican primary in August amid federal investigation of her office for securities fraud.
Recently, a federal grand jury indicted former state deputy treasurer and two businessmen in a securities dealing scheme.
The new state treasurer in Oklahoma is Robert Butkin, a 41-year-old Democrat, who is a Duncan, Okla., banker and a former assistant attorney general. He received 500,061 votes, while his Republican opponent, Bob Keasler, a Tulsa stockbroker, got 466,604.