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Agency audit vote could be on ballots

David Ammons Associated Press

OLYMPIA – After two years of striking out at the ballot box, initiative promoter Tim Eyman apparently is guaranteed a November vote on his plan for performance audits of state and local government agencies.

Eyman and other supporters planned to submit at least 60,000 more petition signatures to the secretary of state on Wednesday, augmenting the estimated 226,000 that were brought in on June 8.

He’s the first to submit signatures this initiative season. July 8 is the deadline to turn in 225,015 valid signatures. Eyman’s extras should provide plenty of cushion for duplicate or invalid signatures.

Eyman advertised his signature turn-in event as a joint appearance with the state auditor, Brian Sonntag, but Sonntag said he wasn’t participating and can’t expressly endorse Initiative 900.

“That wouldn’t be the right role for the auditor’s office,” Sonntag said in an interview on Tuesday. “Our legal adviser has urged caution. I support the things that are in the initiative, but what makes this complicated is that the Legislature passed a performance audit bill already.

“We will work as diligently on the initiative if it passes in November as we currently are on implementing the legislation that passed. I’ve been working on this issue for 12 years.”

Eyman says his initiative is far superior to new state legislation. I-900 would empower the state auditor to study the effectiveness of state and local government agencies and programs.

Sonntag’s office currently is authorized to do financial audits of state and local governments’ handling of tax dollars. Performance audits study how effectively agencies are achieving their goals.

I-900 would provide $10 million a year in funding and let the auditor, rather than a citizen board, decide who gets audited. The Legislature’s version is limited to state programs, a citizen oversight panel governs the audits, all audits must be contracted to the private sector, and the financing is limited to $2.8 million in the next two years.

“I think theirs is a chimp, compared to a gorilla,” Eyman said earlier this month.

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