Editorial for Oct. 8

It’s not every day that we find a Tim Eyman-sponsored measure to our liking, but Initiative 900 brings just what government needs most — performance audits with teeth to rein in ever-increasing costs to the taxpayers.

The 2005 Legislature saw what Eyman calls his “900-pound gorilla” coming and passed a weak-kneed bill creating a citizen commission to pick and choose state agencies they’d like to see audited each year. Compared to the “gorilla,” the Legislature’s bill is more along the lines of a howler monkey — lots of noise, not a lot of action.

Initiative 900 authorizes the state auditor the power to conduct comprehensive performance audits at every level of government from the governor’s office to the smallest port. It doesn’t do away with the citizen commission (made up of seven governor appointees, plus (in a non-voting role) the state auditor, legislative auditor and director of the Office of Financial Management), it adds an axe to the commission’s butter knife by being able to hack through every line in a budget.

It’s not that Eyman is calling for every government entity to be given a performance audit every year. The meager take of the sales tax (estimated at $10 million per year) would in no way come close to being capable of that. Audits instead will serve as a spectre to budget planners, bureaucrats and elected officials who try to keep unneeded and redundant programs alive and waste valuable tax dollars.

“Performance audits of state and local governments and their agencies are meant to wring the most bang out of every taxpayer buck,” Eyman wrote in an e-mail earlier this year. “I-900 offers long-overdue accountability and oversight.”

The measure also has teeth to ensure that the auditor’s recommendations are followed by requiring agencies to conduct public hearings and issue periodic reports on the extent of how the recommendations have been implemented. This lifts the veil off of most of the self-audits done currently.

We spend billions of dollars a year in taxes with little knowledge if they are actually being spent wisely. It’s time to find out what’s hiding behind the curtain.

Vote yes on Initiative 900.

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