I-695 message: Were lawmakers listening?

Guest Column

  • Friday, October 3, 2008 4:55am
  • Opinion

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

or more.

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

dollars wisely?

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.


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