The Santa Fe New Mexican‘s Daniel J. Chacón recently noted that New Mexico’s office of lieutenant governor, currently occupied by John Sanchez (depicted above), is “an $85,000-a-year job that doesn’t come with a whole lot of official responsibilities.”
True. So why not eliminate it?
Neither conservative nor liberal, Republican nor Democrat, the notion of doing away with the office of lieutenant governor is far from controversial. The Chicago Tribune wants its state’s superfluous sinecure excised, to save “$1.6 million annually that could go toward crucial needs.” Last year, The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News urged Pennsylvania “to begin the work of scrapping this largely ceremonial and irrelevant office once and for all.” The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips derided Washington Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen, “the longest-serving lieutenant governor in the country,” for sticking around for decades in an “oft-mocked job.” Neocon Jeff Jacoby wrote that the position in Massachusetts has “no useful constitutional function, apart from succeeding a governor who dies or resigns,” but pays “a salary of $125,000” and includes “a staff and a State House office [with] all the perks of a lofty political title.” The R Street Institute’s Eli Lehrer considers the office of lieutenant governor “a waste of money and time.” Laurie Roberts, a columnist for The Arizona Republic, is opposed to the creation of “yet another elected office for our leading lights to drool over, at our expense.”
Creation? That’s right — the Grand Canyon State is one of several laboratories of democracy without a lieutenant governor.
In New Mexico, there are three Democratic Party candidates currently slugging it out for the lieutenant-governor nomination, while the state’s GOP has picked Michelle Garcia Holmes. But an unlikely source has offered an interesting — and pro-taxpayer — take on the race. Milan Simonich, a liberal columnist for the New Mexican, is seeking
a transcendent candidate, one who says the position of lieutenant governor has no value to anyone except the person in the office. He would spend his four-year term as lieutenant governor getting his own job abolished.
A constitutional amendment would be drafted to eliminate the office of lieutenant governor. It would include a new line of succession if a governor died or resigned. The speaker of the House of Representatives or the secretary of state could become governor until the seat was filled in an election.
Legislators, well aware that the lieutenant governor’s office is a waste money, would place the proposed amendment on the ballot. Then we the people would vote the lieutenant governor out of existence.
The politician who initiated this change would be unemployed, but with statesman status.
Aside from the sexism — he would spend his term getting the job abolished? — it’s a great idea. As Andrew Oxford reported in December, inclusive of the $85,000 salary, New Mexico’s office of lieutenant governor “got about $500,000 in this year’s state budget.”