Raiding performance audit funds is a myopic budget move

Budget writers in the Republican-controlled state Senate are dealing another blow to government accountability. By inappropriately repurposing about $11 million of the state auditor’s dedicated I-900 performance audit funds, the GOP budget undermines the 2005 initiative for performance audit authority.

Almost two-thirds of Washington voters approved Initiative 900, because people want to know that government is spending their hard-earned tax dollars wisely and efficiently, and that the investments are producing intended results.

The initiative included a dedicated funding source for conducting the audits, placing 0.16 percent of the state’s portion of sales and use tax collections into a state treasury account.

Politicians have been attempting to raid that fund ever since, and they were successful in 2011.

Repurposing funds from the performance audit account creates false savings. State performance audits have identified more than $500 million in savings, and return about $10 saved to every $1 spent. Stripping $11 million potentially costs the state $110 million in future savings.

Cutting the funds available for performance audits shows a callous disregard for government reform, which all state lawmakers should be embracing. Taking away the only real tool to instigate government reform is woefully shortsighted.