An audit overload we can’t afford

Essay At A Glance

Washington’s initiative profiteer is back.

Tim Eyman, still smarting from the spectacular demise of Initiative 892, is now hawking his latest proposal: Initiative 900, which would choke the state with an overload of performance audits.

The concept of doing performance audits has been around a long time – the state auditor has long been in favor of them, and for the past couple years, House Democrats have passed bills that would have mandated performance audits for state agencies. This year, they’re working on the same legislation once again.

And now, along comes Tim Eyman, intent on crashing the party with his own proposal. Unfortunately for Eyman, few seem to be taking him seriously, as he has lost much of the political clout he once used to wield.

What makes Eyman’s proposal different? Eyman has indicated he wants the state auditor to audit everything – every last agency, program, and account. And he doesn’t want to stop at state government. Eyman wants local government audited, too.

The state auditor’s office has told Permanent Defense that Eyman’s proposal will cost them $90 million dollars every biennium – or $45 million every year – a whopping sum to consider. Eyman apparently doesn’t realize the true cost of his plan, because he’s only allocated $10 million for I-900 each year.

His proposed funding is woeful and doesn’t even begin to cover the true cost of what he’s proposing the state auditor should do.

The office also tells Permanent Defense that this proposal will require the auditor’s office to expand four times its current size. Four times? Eyman has always been against expanding government bureaucracy. Now he’s for it?

What’s more, it will take ten to twelve years to fully implement the proposal. So if Eyman’s proposal were to take effect at the end of this year, it wouldn’t be fully in place until around 2017.

It’s clear that auditing every single government agency in the state – including local government – is a nonstarter. It’s a waste of money. The cost will simply outweigh any savings we get from doing it.

Eyman’s failure to come up with a reasonable proposal is not a surprise. Tim has never been in favor of a serious and honest discussion about taxation and budgeting – he prefers lies and myths that will spur people to believe in his ideas, which brings him more money and attention.

But fortunately, there are already reasonable proposals out there, advocated by House Speaker Frank Chopp and a number of other Democrats.

While Tim sputters in his attempt to keep his initiative factory running, Olympia has the chance to pass performance audit legislation that has the potential to secure our state some modest savings.

State Auditor Brian Sonntag has long championed performance audit legislation, and it’s time to move forward and work out a proposal that will serve the citizens of the state of Washington.

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