A Republican bill seeking to examine the relocation of state agencies outside Dane County — including moving the Department of Children and Families to Milwaukee — could cost about a half million dollars or more, while potential savings are unknown, according to a state fiscal analysis.
If a study led to an agency moving out of Madison it has the potential to disrupt hundreds of Madison workers and have ripple effects on the city’s office rental market.
The proposal from Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-West Allis, tasks the Department of Children and Families with developing a plan to move its headquarters from Madison to Milwaukee in the 2019-21 budget.
In the horse era, it made sense for most of any state’s government agencies to be located in the capital city. It allowed for the convenient sharing of information and work to flow between agencies as needed. In the 21st century, it is no longer necessary. Not only can workers easily travel across the state in hours if needed, but the availability of inexpensive and powerful collaborative technologies makes it easy for workers to work together from anywhere. Businesses and governments are doing it all of the time.
In the 21st century, it make much more sense to distribute state work. First, putting certain agencies closest to the people its serves makes sense. In this case, a vast number of DCF’s customers are in Milwaukee. It makes sens for them to be close to them. It might make more sense for the DNR to be centrally located in the state or for the Department of Corrections to be in Waupun… maybe. It’s worth a look.
For agencies that serve the whole state, it would benefit Wisconsin to “spread the wealth,” so to speak. Wouldn’t Appleton benefit from the jobs and investment if the Department of Revenue were located there? I’m sure Stevens Point would be delighted to host the Department of Public Instruction? And La Crosse seems like as good a place as any for the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. The point is that all Wisconsin taxpayers pay for these agencies. Why shouldn’t some of those tax dollars flow back into communities all over the state instead of just into Madison? Not only would it help more people be closer to their government, but it would help more of our government be closer to the people.