Bipartisanship is spoken of as an undisputed good, but it’s not always true. When both parties agree to sweep funding for a good program without so much as an argument, the people lose out doubly. They lose the positive benefits of a useful program, and they miss out on a useful debate over whether or not that program deserves to be a priority.
There is bipartisan agreement in Olympia to, once again, raid funds for performance audits so the relatively small amount (about $10 million) can be spent elsewhere. The House Democrats and Senate Republicans both take from the performance audit funds in their supplemental budget proposals.
The performance audit program and the dedicated fund to pay for them were put in place by the voters through Initiative 900 in 2005. Voters support performance audits because they know that state agencies, like all institutions, can get locked into certain ways of operating without questioning their effectiveness. Performance audits ask, are taxpayers getting their money’s worth? Can new ways of doing things improve performance?
The independent work of the State Auditor’s Office is important, and that independence is intentional. Jan Jutte, who was the Acting Auditor when the embattled Troy Kelley took his leave of absence, wrote legislators this week that “Our founders were wise in establishing an independent State Auditor’s Office to hold government accountable for the use of public resources.”
This matter isn’t about Troy Kelley, who should have resigned long ago, or quibbling about the program’s dedicated fund (if legislators believe it receives too much, they could amend it instead of frequently raiding it). It’s about a small amount of funding to improve agency performance and save money in the long run.
Besides, former state auditor Brian Sonntag believes the funds should be protected because performance audits are important. That’s one of the best indicators you could have that sweeping these funds isn’t a great idea.