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April 29th, 2009 WW Editorial Staff | Rogue of the Week
 

Laurie Monnes Anderson

Wrong time to kill a watchdog.

     
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At a time when Portland City Council is raiding obscure pots of money to subsidize questionable ballpark proposals and a risky headquarters hotel concept, the last thing taxpayers need is boneheaded legislation that would reduce the transparency of public spending.

But state Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham) is pushing Senate Bill 748, legislation that would eliminate the Multnomah County Tax Supervising and Conservation Commission. That agency, established in 1919, oversees the budgets of 39 local government bodies subject to state budget law.

With the equivalent of only 2.4 full-time employees and an allowance of less than $300,000, the TSCC collects data and holds budget hearings for entities that collectively employ more than 29,000 people and spend more than $9 billion annually. No other agency ensures that government bodies ranging from the tiny (Alto Park Water District) to the colossal (City of Portland, Portland Public Schools, Multnomah County) complete their budgets accurately, on time and in compliance with statutory and constitutional limits.

In the past decade, the TSCC says it saved taxpayers more than $7 million by catching tax-levy mistakes by local governments.

As media coverage of small government bodies dwindles, the TSCC’s comprehensive annual presentation of how local governments raise and spend their money (online at co.multnomah.or.us/orgs/tscc/index.php) is an incredible resource. Even veteran anti-tax activist Don McIntire, who has rarely seen a government program he did not want to kill, wants the TSCC preserved.

“This is the agency that gives transparency to what the political class is doing,” McIntire says, “and that’s a valuable tool.”

Monnes Anderson disagrees, calling the TSCC “an extra, unnecessary expenditure of taxpayer resources.”

There’s probably no bill she could push that would be less useful to her constituents.

 
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