SonntagAmong the Olympia department heads beseeching lawmakers not to make further gouges

SonntagAmong the Olympia department heads beseeching lawmakers not to make further gouges in their budgets, State Auditor Brian Sonntag may have the best argument: How can the legislature cut back on a process that not only saves taxpayers money but helps the state generate new income?Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed cutting Sonntag’s performance-audit funding by $1.5 million on top of an $8 million reduction last year. Sonntag not only wants the new cut headed off but asks that the previous cutback be restored.That $8 million, he says in a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, represented a one-third cut in mandatory performance auditing approved by voters in 2005 to ferret out wasteful state spending.”This latest [proposed] diversion comes as these audits continue to result in real cost savings,” he writes, and in ways to make government work better. For example, a 2009 performance review proposed a business tax amnesty that, once approved, brought in $343 million, while a recent performance audit turned up ways to shave cell phone and mail costs, resulting in a $730,000 savings.Those and other examples (see list) amount to almost $1 billion in actual and confirmed estimated savings since voters approved such audits, says Sonntag, a respected penny pincher who is retiring next year. His common-sense bottom line: It doesn’t add up for his office to “do less at a time we should be doing more.”

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