State Auditor Brian Sonntag sent Governor Gregoire a letter last week asking her to veto an $8 million raid of the voter approved dedicated performance audit account.
“Diverting performance audit funding to support unrelated, specific activities at other agencies is wrong. It sets a precedent for future use of this money that is not in keeping with provisions of Initiative 900.
We feel strongly that Department of Revenue tax recovery auditing must be paid for by the funds generated by that activity. As an alternative, it also could be funded by money raised by the tax amnesty program, which to date has collected $343 million in back taxes, $282 million for the state and $61 million for local governments.
Along a similar line, money for the Department of Social and Health Services’ fraud investigations should come from the dollars recovered by the fraud unit, not the State Auditor’s Office performance audit funds.
Permit me to remind you that $17 million has been swept from the Performance Audits of Government Account to help balance the state’s general fund budget. Despite that, our Office has used performance audit to offer ideas to saves millions of dollars, generate millions more in new revenue and make government work better for all of us. You’ve seen it reflected in successful legislation transforming state printing and liquor operations. And we’re pleased you seized on our 2010 Performance Review idea for the previously mentioned tax amnesty program.”
Last Friday I also asked the Governor to veto the raid of the dedicated performance funds noting “It would be unfortunate to set a precedent where that dedicated account (and the funding capacity for performance audits that have already shown savings for the state) becomes a frequent target for future fund sweeps or redirection.”
If this veto dance seems like déjà vu, it is.
In 2009, the Legislature tried to sweep $29 million from the dedicated performance audit account. The Governor vetoed this raid in response to Sonntag’s request and promise to set aside funds for transfer in 2010 (the $17 million mentioned in his letter).
Hopefully she will do the same again this time to help restore the promise and integrity of the State Auditor’s performance audit program.
The Governor plans to take action on the budget and the remaining bills from the special session next Wednesday (June 15).