EDITORIAL: Gov. Gregoire will do the right thing, won’t she, on performance audits?

  • BY Wire Service
  • Thursday, May 14, 2009 5:54pm
  • Opinion

The press around the state has been on Gov. Chris Gregoire’s case recently. From the Seattle Times to the Everett Herald to The Olympian, they are up in arms over the fact that the Legislature reduced the money available to the state Auditor to conduct performance audits.

Well, OK, the Legislature gutted that function in Auditor Brian Sonntag’s office.

The press wants Gregoire to restore the money.

You may remember performance audits. In 2005 voters approved Initiative 900, which established a 0.16 percent state sales tax to fund a program that requires Sonntag’s office to audit state and local agencies in search of cost savings and ways to improve performance. It passed handily, by the way. Apparently voters believed that it might be possible for the state to spend its money more wisely if someone actually looked over the shoulders of its various agencies.

In fact, Sonntag said his agency has completed 15 performance audits that have saved the state $10 for every $1 spent on the studies. Not a bad return on investment, especially in a tough economy.

Nonetheless, the Legislature cut 73 percent of the money Sonntag has for performance audits.

Now, the press wants Gregoire to restore that money. She has until Monday to either OK the cuts or veto them from the state budget passed by the Legislature.

We have faith that Gov. Gregoire will do the right thing – and restore the money for performance audits.

It would be easy for her to do the opposite. After all, agencies and programs are hurting for money because of the state and national recession. Every penny is important. But Sonntag hardly is being greedy. He agreed to a 50 percent reduction, which is on a par with what other state agencies are facing. Apparently, that wasn’t good enough for the Legislature.

But we can’t believe that Gregoire would be so short-sighted that she would consciously cut money from one of the few state programs that has been proven to return more money to the state than it costs. To believe otherwise would be to admit that Gregoire caters to those in the Legislature who are peeved that Sonntag’s audits have found fault with their pet projects and agencies.

We believe Gregoire is better than this.

She can’t be as petty as those in her party who would sacrifice future state stability for a short-term political gain. She can’t carry a grudge against Sonntag for appearing on the steps of the state Capitol to support the recent tax protest, can she? Of course not. She’s better than that, even if legislative leaders seem to be after Sonntag’s head – even though he, too, is a Democrat. Democrats can believe in being reasonable about taxes can’t they? We think so.

Why then all the fuss from the state press?

Is it because they believe that Gregoire is merely a pol and not a leader?

Is it because they feel she favors party over performance?

Could it be that they really don’t believe she has the backbone to stand up to the Legislature and tell them what’s right and what’s wrong – and make it stick?

This issue really isn’t that complicated. Gov. Gregoire should restore the funding that the Legislature hacked out of Brian Sonntag’s budget. She should do this because it will pay dividends in both the present and the future. She should do this because performance audits are the way the state should conduct its business.

The bottom line is making the most of every dollar we as taxpayers give to government. Performance audits have proven to do that.

Will Chris Gregoire restore the cuts and allow the auditor to conduct more performance audits?

We trust she will. Won’t she?


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