In a rare display of bipartisanship, Republican and Democratic state legislators have joined in a steadfast stance against public transparency. They will not allow state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to conduct an audit, which may ask them to explain why they hoard more than $100 million of the people’s money for their own use as the state government faces a $3 billion deficit.
The Legislature requires every other part of the government to return to the treasury any money that it has not spent at the close of the fiscal year. The state constitution requires a balanced budget, after all, which means that state agencies are precluded from accumulating surpluses just as they may not accrue deficits.
But, of course, the Legislature has exempted itself. It accumulates surpluses in its accounts over years on the theory that it might need the money to withstand a protracted budget dispute with the governor. That perverse rationale is, of course, self-fulfilling. The existence of such a slush fund to pay legislative salaries virtually ensures such an impasse.
Recently, an audit released by the Legislative Audit Commission revealed that the lawmakers have hoarded more than $118 million in taxpayers’ money, up from about $100 million at the close of the 2015 fiscal year.