Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Legislature Trying To Rein In Sonntag

I have to wonder why, in its infinite budgeting wisdom, the State Legislature is attempting to take half the money from State Auditor Brian Sonntag's office and use it for other agencies and projects. Hard to believe, I know, but Sonntag, who keeps getting re-elected by huge margins, is perhaps this state's most trusted elected official — someone more trusted than even our Governor. Go figure...

Sonntag's performance audit program has proven to save taxpayers $10 for every tax dollar his department spends doing its job. Watching our tax dollars so diligently — which was mandated by statewide public initiative — has naturally made Sonntag less than the most popular guy at agencies like WSDOT, the Port of Seattle, my personal favorite, Sound Transit, as well as most other public and quasi-public agencies. It's also no big secret that the powerful public-employee union and education lobbyists strongly resent his watchdog approach to wasteful spending.

Governor Christine Gregoire publicly supports fellow Democrat Sonntag, while behind the scenes working in concert with key legislators to rein in his authority and budget.

Sonntag termed "absolutely unacceptable" both House and Senate budget proposals that would take $15 million in performance-audit funds — more than half of the revenue voters permanently designated for performance audits — from the State Auditor, and redirect them to self-auditing programs directed by the Governor's office and the Legislature. Sonntag called the proposals, "nothing short of an assault on what citizens expect the state to do when they gave us the authority and the funding stream to carry it out."

Whisteblowers like Sonntag aren't very popular with elected and appointed officials who prefer operating in the shadows away from public scrutiny. This is hardball dirty politics — not to mention downright fiscal stupidity — at work. The legislature should not be allowed to get away with this assault on financial accountability. Call or email your legislator today and tell them so.

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