First day of the new legislative session… first day to file initiatives to the people… it’s back to the real work of governing. While Dino Rossi, the BIAW, and the folks at (un)Sound Politics continue to pursue their real agenda — undermining the public’s faith in all government — I hope you’ll excuse me if I take a break from refuting their lies to address some real issues.
For example, as I write this, initiative profiteer Tim Eyman is holding what I expect to be a sparsely attended news conference, to introduce his newest ill-conceived initiative: mandatory performance audits of every state and local government agency, account and program.
Personally, I think performance audits can be a useful tool, along with Gov. Locke’s Priorities of Government program, for evaluating the efficiency of existing state programs, and reprioritizing government spending. But as usual, Timmy’s proposal is more about punishing government than making it efficient, and this initiative is really, stupidly over-the-top.
It’s one thing to empower the State Auditor to conduct performance audits. It’s another thing to require him to audit every single agency, account and program in the state. I mean, let’s be serious… the cost of conducting a performance audit on the average local cemetery district would likely far exceed the district’s entire budget.
How expense is this initiative. Well, Eyman dedicates a portion of the state sales tax equal to about $10 million a year. I believe in accounting terms, this is technically referred to as “a lie.” According to the State Auditor’s Office, the real cost would likely be in excess of $90 million per biennium. Not only that, it would require increasing staff levels by at least four-fold, and take 10 to 12 years to implement. That’s right… Eyman is proposing over a half billion dollars of new spending!
Way to cut government, Tim!
Don’t believe me? Check out the document provided by the State Auditor’s Office in response to questions by public watchdog group Permanent Defense. The Auditor is particularly critical of including local government agencies in the initiative, calling it “ill-advised.”
So where do I stand on this issue. As usual, I tend to defer to well-regarded professionals when it comes to issues on which I have only limited expertise… so I support giving State Auditor Brian Sonntag the kind of legislation he wants:
We believe the intent behind the initiative is good, however, we also firmly believe that there is a better way. We were nearly successful in getting a measure passed during the 2004 session of the Legislature… In our view, the optimum means of accomplishing an independent, comprehensive performance audit function is to have the Governor and Legislature embrace it and enact authorizing legislation and funding to support it.
Sonntag nearly got the legislation he asked for last year… it had the votes to pass the Democrat-controlled House, but was blocked in the Republican Senate. Now that the Democrats control both houses of the Legislature, and the Governor’s Mansion, it seems likely that responsible performance audits legislation will be signed into law, preempting Eyman’s initiative, regardless of his rhetorical gamesmanship.
But even if the Legislature grinds to halt in the partisan meltdown currently being promised by Republicans, and nothing is passed, this initiative still doesn’t have a snowball’s chance. Over the past few years Eyman has demonstrated that he lacks the grassroots support to finance both an initiative campaign and his standard of living. If he couldn’t rile up money-in-my-pocket fervor with last year’s “25% tax cut” initiative, performance audits is guaranteed to be a fundraising dud. And without directly benefiting a greedy special-interest like the gambling industry, he has no sugar-daddy to bankroll his efforts.
Makes you wonder, what with all the money he’s wasted proposing and running failed initiatives… isn’t it time his contributors conduct a performance audit on Tim Eyman?