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January 10, 2005

Opening trumpet for I-900

Tim Eyman has filed Initiative 900 -- its text will soon be available among proposed initiatives here -- to strengthen the hand of the state auditor to do performance audits on state agencies.

A performance audit is a report on an agency that attempts to say how well it works -- not only whether its accounting is good, but whether it is efficient, and whether it is actually achieving what it was set up to do.

The current auditor, Democrat Brian Sonntag, has been saying for years that he supports performance audits, and still says so, but he is critical of I-900 on two counts:

The first is that it empowers him to audit local government as well as state agencies. "Performance audits are a management tool," he says, and it shouldn't be the business of the state to manage local government.

The second reason is that he does not think a reform so should be done by initiaitve. He says he wants to work with the Legislature to pass a bill. He adds, "I'm hopeful there will be a better reception in the governor's office than we've seen in the past eight years."

I can think of some local governments that could use a performance audit, though Sonntag might be right about it being outside the state's bailiwick. It could be used in a "good-government" way or a political way. He is undoubtedly right that in general, it is risky to widen state authority by initiative.

But it depends on the initiative. It will be a while before it's posted and people have time to analyze it. Even if it's not perfect, I-900 may break the logjam. As Eyman has said many times, initiatives are another form of lobbying -- and in this state, often a very effective form.

Another thing: Eyman always seeks easy-to-remember numbers for his initiatives -- like 200, 747 (from the airplane) or 776 (from the Revolution). Now it's I-900.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at January 10, 2005 02:32 PM



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