Tag Archives: I-900

FOIA filed to expose potential audit mischief

Election Postmortem

One of the major reasons we opposed Initiative 900 two years ago was because we feared the potential for abuse of the performance audit as a tool to ensure good government.

Today, suspicious of the gleeful rhetoric used by opponents of transportation agencies such of Sound Transit expressing their happiness that audits will be released right before an election with a major package on the ballot (Roads & Transit) David Goldstein filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out if auditors have been communicating with those opponents (Tim Eyman, Ted Van Dyk, etc.) behind the scenes, leaking information:

Performance audits are not comparable to financial audits in either scope or purpose. You don’t just bring in a third party to examine the books in search of waste, fraud or abuse, but rather, you observe and analyze the performance of an agency and its procedures for the purpose of recommending changes that could lead to greater efficiencies. While in a worst case scenario a performance audit could conclude that an agency does not fulfill its mission at all, it is mostly meant as a productivity tool, and as such requires the full cooperation of the management and staff being audited if it is to be effective. If instead, performance audits are used as a means to politically punish and embarrass an agency — including, say, influencing elections — then future audits on other agencies will never gain the inside trust and cooperation necessary to conduct them.

Yes, voters deserve to know how well Sound Transit and WSDOT are spending our money before we vote them more of it, but if these audits are perceived to be politically motivated hatchet jobs, their reports won’t be worth the paper they’re written on. And if officials within the auditor’s office or the outside contractors have been improperly communicating with opponents of the Roads & Transit measure, soliciting their input and leaking results, then I can’t see how these so-called “performance audits” can be understood to be genuine performance audits at all, let alone impartial and unbiased.

The FOIA results should be telling – we’ll be waiting to see what gets disclosed.

Initiative 900 rears its ugly head

Election Postmortem

Via Strange Bedfellows comes word of a new performance audit released by the State Auditor’s office and conducted by Ernst & Young, who declared in their report that “Washington State Ferries provides a level of service above what traffic volumes demand.” The audit says this unnecessary service will cost the state $100 million over the next 10 years.

The state Department of Transportation has responded to the audit, noting:

“The Department agrees that some sailings have space available during off peak hours…However, several factors will affect how the Department addresses this recommendation.

“As a mass transit provider, there must be a balance in accommodating peak demand periods with providing some level of connection and usefulness to customers in off-peak hours. In the manner that highways are not closed during hours of low utilization, canceling off-peak ferry sailing mush consider factors in addition to utilization.”

[…]

“While this finding is worthy of further consideration, it is premature to assume cost savings of almost $10 million (per year) from service cuts.”

While performance audits have the potential to be useful and helpful in identifying modest cost savings, what we don’t need is auditors and accountants running state government agencies. The foremost goal of the state ferry system should be to provide quality service to the people of Washington State, not transport humans as cheaply as possible.

We opposed I-900 in 2005 because it gave too much power to the auditor’s office and went beyond what was needed and appropriate.

At some point in the future, I-900 will have to be revised, repealed, or amended to curtail abuse or prevent the possibility of abuse, because the initiative’s language practically invites it.

Checks and balances were apparently not a concept that Tim Eyman learned when he was in high school.

Setting the record straight on I-900, I-912

Election PostmortemStatements & Advisories

Yesterday, Tim Eyman sent out an e-mail congratulating all his supporters on the success of Initiative 900, saying “All of you helped make I-900 a success.  We received over 2400 donations (average contribution was $247.10).”

It’s worth noting that Initiative 900 would have been doomed had it not been for the tremendous financial backing provided by multimillionaire Michael Dunmire. On June 9th, the Spokesman-Review reported on Eyman’s fundraising:

…According to campaign finance records filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission, Eyman has raised about $415,000 for the initiative. Of that, Dunmire and his wife have contributed more than $314,000…

A few weeks later, The Olympian did the same, but with new numbers:

Eyman’s I-900, which proposes an expansion of performance audits for state and local agencies, raised about $617,000. Of that, $489,494 came from a retired Woodinville investment executive, Michael Dunmire, and his wife, Phyllis Dunmire.

Eyman can calculate the total number of donations and produce an average, but he’s hiding the fact that his initiative was primarily funded by one person. There’s no denying that it wouldn’t have been possible without Dunmire. Using the figures provided by the Olympian, Dunmire’s contributions represent nearly 80% of the total amount Eyman raised. That’s a staggering amount.

In his email, Eyman also wrote: “Several recent news stories have made it sound like the Initiative 900 campaign jumped on the Democrats’ accountability bandwagon – quite the contrary…”

Actually, those news stories were accurate. Eyman did jump on the Democrats’ “accountability bandwagon”. House Democrats and the state auditor, Brian Sonntag (D), had already been working on performance audit legislation for years. Thanks to a change of leadership in the state Senate after last year’s elections, the legislation finally made it to the Governor’s desk and was signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire.

Initiatives aren’t difficult if you have a multimillionaire willing to pour nearly half a million dollars into your initiative campaign. If you have the money, you can qualify for the ballot – it doesn’t matter what your issue is or how popular it might be. Western Washington University political scientist Todd Donovan was correct. There was hardly any excitement around I-900. Without paid signature gatherers and Dunmire’s money, I-900 would have been another failure for Eyman.

It is apparent that Eyman is going to ignore the clearly-expressed wishes of voters in the last election and proceed ahead with his initiative to gut a significant portion of the 2005 transportation package.

If Eyman respected the voters’ decision, he’d drop his plans for his 2006 initiative to repeal the rest of the package and move on. But, since it doesn’t appear he’s going to do that, he will be exhibiting tremendous disrespect for the taxpayers of Washington State.

He and his cohorts gambled on the passage of Initiative 912 and lost. They demanded that voters have a say. Voters have had their say, and they’ve put their stamp of approval on Olympia’s work – they want the state to invest in transportation and our future.

The I-695 vote was six years ago, and the I-776 vote was three years ago. The people have just spoken again, and there’s a clear mandate for keeping the 2005 transportation package intact. (And, it should be remembered that King County voted against both I-695 and I-776. Voters in King County have a clear and consistent record of wanting to invest in better roads, bridges, and transit services

Eyman never looks at the consequences of repealing taxes. There is no free lunch. We can’t have services we’re not willing to pay for.

If we want safe roads and bridges, less congestion, a stronger economy, and a healthier state, we simply must invest in transportation.

The Legislature and the people are in agreement. People like Tim Eyman need to get out of the way and stop obstructing our state’s progress. His efforts are not welcome.

Eyman loses big in 2005 election

Election Postmortem

This year’s election will long be remembered as a turning point in Washington’s history. While Initiative 900 passed, Initiative 912 failed in a stunning defeat for Tim Eyman, who had latched on to the effort spearheaded by KVI talk show hosts John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur. Initiative 900 was passing with about 56% of the vote as of late Monday, November 14th, 2005.

Counties defeating Initiative 900 include Skamania, Klickitat, Grant, Adams, Lincoln, Whitman, San Juan, Garfield, Columbia, Asotin, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, and Wahkiakum (thirteen total).

All of those counties, curiously, are in rural Washington. Many of those counties traditionally have given Eyman has strongest support.

Thirteen counties are also defeating Initiative 912, but most of those counties include major urban areas, though some are rural.

Statement on Initiative 900 election results

Election PostmortemStatements & Advisories

“As we expected, Initiative 900 is passing with a fairly comfortable margin, according to the latest results,” said Permanent Defense Chair Andrew Villeneuve. “While the initiative was poorly drafted and not subject to public hearings or other constructive input, voters saw the words ‘performance audits’ on the ballot, and decided that they would like to expand the scope of the auditor’s office.”

Tim Eyman does not deserve credit for Initiative 900. His main financial backer, Michael Dunmire, does. It was Dumire’s money that put Initiative 900 on the ballot. Dunmire poured almost half a million dollars into Eyman’s political committee to support 900.

“We still think Initiative 900 is flawed, and we will urge the Legislature to go back and make some changes to the language during the next legislative session,” Villeneuve added. “In particular, we’d like to see state legislators give the citizen advisory board additional teeth so that all this power is not concentrated in the hands of one official.”

Time to Vote….Today is Election Day

Announcements

If you’re a registered voter and you haven’t yet voted, please do so, whether you go to the polls or receive your ballot in the mail. Remember to vote NO on Initiatives 900, 912, and 330. Vote YES on Initiatives 901 and 336. Also remember to vote for Ron Sims if you live in King County.

Sims is a major advocate for our platform of tax reform and we need to keep him in office. For more NPI/Permanent Defense endorsements, see the NPI Official Blog.

The Stranger endorses NO on I-900

Endorsements

An excerpt from their editorial:

A bill passed by the legislature last year already expanded the capabilities of the auditor’s office to do performance audits of state agencies under the oversight of an appointed Citizen’s Advisory Panel—which (unlike Eyman’s version) would prevent the newly empowered auditor from being an unaccountable politicized attack dog. And that brings us to the problem with I-900.

Eyman also wants to give the state auditor the authority to eyeball local agencies outside the auspices of the Advisory Panel. As tipsy as we are right now, we almost missed the fine print that reveals Eyman’s agenda about local agencies: Eyman’s initiative tells the newly empowered auditor to: “aggressively pursue the largest, costliest government entities first…” (i.e., those liberal King County and Seattle agencies).

No thanks, Tim. Both King County and the City of Seattle already have tenacious, independent auditors. We don’t need to turn a state office into an action wing of the Republican Party’s agenda to shrink government. Vote no on I-900.

Municipal League Opposes Initiative 900

Endorsements

Here’s their rationale:

Performance audits can be valuable as a management and accountability tool to enhance governmental efficiency. They should be used judiciously by independent, non political auditors to effect improvements in individual agencies and programs. The performance audit legislation ESHB 1064 already passed by the Legislature in 2005 provides such a mechanism and funds it appropriately. It provides for citizen input and oversight, selective audits based on criteria and a work plan, and conformance to governmental audit standards.

Initiative 900, in contrast, uses performance audits to wage a political debate by other means. It throws an excessive amount of money at an overly broad set of audit mandates. It is far from clear that the benefit of blanket state and local government audits will exceed the very high cost of conducting and responding to many audits each year. The questions that the initiative requires the auditors to answer in each performance audit are far from neutral and assume that waste and misfeasance must be present in each audited agency. It grants the state auditor a dedicated funding source and broad auditing powers over all of state and local government without any checks or balances such as citizen oversight or legislative review and appropriation, thus creating opportunity for political mischief.

For these reasons, the Municipal League opposes I-900.

We agree. Vote NO on Initative 900.

Eyman’s Initiative 900 failing in latest poll

Poll Watch

SurveyUSA has a new poll out that shows voters actually voting down Initiative 900. In the poll 48% say they will vote no, while 45% say they will vote yes. 5% are undecided.

For an initiative that has drawn this organization as the only real organized opposition, those are excellent numbers. But polls have shown Eyman initiatives losing before (I-776 in 2002), and they’ve been wrong.

If I-900 does go down, we’ll be more than delighted.

OFM Fiscal Impact Statement for I-900

Threat Analysis

The Office of Fiscal Management has released their fiscal impact statement for Initiative 900. It is as follows:

Fiscal Impact Statement for Initiative 900
Initiative 900 would reduce state sales-and-use tax revenue flowing to the state fund that finances general government services. It directs that 0.16 percent of this revenue go to a new Performance Audits of Government Account to pay for performance audits of state and local governments. An estimated $17 million would be deposited in the account instead of the state General Fund in the 2005-07 Biennium, and an estimated $25 million would be deposited in the 2007-09 Biennium. Tax revenue in the General Fund pays for state services including education, social, health, and environmental services, and general government activities

Assumptions for Fiscal Analysis of Initiative 900
The estimates of the amount of sales-and-use tax revenue that would be deposited in the Performance Audits of Government Account is determined by applying the 0.16 percent diversion rate specified in the initiative to the sales-and-use tax collections projected in the June 2005 revenue forecast produced by the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.

The General Fund reduction of $17 million estimated for the 2005-07 Biennium assumes an effective date for the initiative of Dec. 8, 2005. The General Fund reduction of $25 million that is estimated for the 2007-09 Biennium reflects the fiscal impact of the initiative over a full, 24-month biennium.

Permanent Defense will be making the OFM’s fiscal impact statement available as a PDF from the Release Center.

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