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I-695 message: Were lawmakers listening?
The message voters sent when they approved Initiative 695 was loud
and clear. I fear, however, that some elected officials were not
listening very carefully.
Consider these responses in various articles following Election
Day: "We're far better off to say the public knew exactly what services would
be cut, knew exactly what would happen. My feeling
is to give them what they wanted. Anything that is
now funded by the MVET doesn't get funded. Government is services.
If you cut government, you are cutting services"
- State Sen. Georgia Gardner.
"The voters had a clear choice - road projects or a tax cut - and
they went with a tax cut" - House Co-Speaker Frank Chopp.
"We will carry out the will of the voter. There will be service cuts
and people will lose their jobs" - Gov. Gary Locke.
These responses concern me, because that's not what I heard
citizens saying. What I heard is that citizens want government to deliver
services more efficiently. The people have given us their direction to start
running government more like a business. They want us to reduce waste and
still protect priority services such as public safety, transportation and
education. Anyone who thinks this vote was a message to cut or eliminate
important services just was not listening.
I will not allow government to punish citizens for voting
themselves a tax cut.
It's high time government began to function like a business and
be mindful of the fact that we are not spending government's money - it
is the people's hard-earned dollars. My business background tells me we
have a lot of room for efficiency before we start talking about cutting into the
services people want and deserve from government.
So, where do we begin? You may not remember, but not more than
a year ago negotiations over the state operating budget failed when the
Senate gained control of the votes and used it to quash ideas for
improving government efficiency. I had several amendments to the budget and
ideas last year for cutting costs and wasteful spending, but the people's
voice was shut out of the budget process.
Now the people's voice is going to be heard. Competitive bidding,
contracting services, eliminating agency lobbying, evaluating
comparative costs for services, and cutting the
number of agencies providing duplicate services - these are all reforms
that we've been proposing to implement to make government more efficient.
I also want to look at some of the fundamental ways government operates.
Did you know that when government agencies administer funding
for local programs, the agencies keep a percentage of the money for
administrative fees? Some agencies "pass through" 90 percent of the funding
Others pass through less than 70 percent, keeping the rest. I want to
get a handle on how much government agencies are charging for these
"pass through" fees. Every dollar they
keep is a dollar that fails to go to its intended purpose.
I also want to review the way government purchases supplies and
materials. Are taxpayers paying a competitive price? Is government
shopping around, demanding a fair price for supplies, and spending your tax
My sense is that it is not.
These are good places to start if we can overcome the bitterness
exhibited above by some elected officials and work together to enact I-695
the way people want it to be done.
In the end, I predict we're going to see a trickle-down effect of
greater efficiency at all levels of government.
As part of this process, we're going to be asking local city and county
officials to identify mandates and regulations they'd like to see removed.
Initiative 695 is not an "emergency," as the governor has declared.
Enacting the will of the people is not an emergency. It is an
opportunity to reinvent government and restore the people's trust in the way it is
managed and the way services are delivered. Government will have to start
treating citizens like customers. To that I say, it's about time.
Rep. Kathy Lambert is a state representative from the 45th
Legislative District and serves on the House Appropriations Committee.