Subpoenas and Investigations

Legislative leaders have kicked off the 2011 session vowing to get to the bottom of the way state agencies spend the money the legislature appropriates to them.

Speaker of the House Steven Tilley is threatening to give his budget committees subpoena power to get information from agencies about WFA—the phrase “waste, fraud, and abuse” has become so tattered through overuse by both political parties that only its acronym is left.

Senate leader Rob Mayer has changed the Senate Committee on Fiscal Affairs and Government Accountability so there is only a Senate Committee on Governmental Accountability. Fiscal Affairs is being put in with Ways and Means, certainly a more appropriate verbal matchup. Mayer wants Government Accountability to look into the way state agencies spend money. To his credit, he has not uttered the WFA phrase, at least not that we have heard. So far he has not indicated that committee also should have subpoena powers.

How many years have we been hearing our candidates and our office holders pledge their utmost efforts to root out WFA? We’ve been hearing this so long from both political parties that we are left with some conclusions.

  1. There must have been a huge amount of WFA before this constant crusade began because there apparently is so much left that it still deserves special efforts to root it out.
  2. Previous lawmakers and state office holders who promised to eliminate WFA either (a) forgot about keeping their promises (b) didn’t do a very good job, or (c) couldn’t really find enough to publicize.
  3. WFA is some kind of political pesticide-resistant bacteria.
  4. Those who vow to fight WFA are direct descendants of Don Quixote, the famous fighter of windmills.

Seriously, though, the ideal government operates efficiently and without favor and is free of criminal behavior. Ideal public servants do not engage in such activity and other ideal public servants are committed to eliminating WFA as a matter of maintaining public trust.

No, we are not suggesting Missouri government reaches the ideal level in any of those categories. But loose use of the WFA phrase casts an unwarranted aspersion on thousands of dedicated, hardworking, anonymous people who provide the serves we expect, demand, and rely upon. Maybe it’s time for a new catch-phrase that can replace WFA for a few years until it, too, wears out.

As far as the Government Accountability Committee and the subpoenas for the budget committees—there is the possibility for mischief. Let us not forget that (a) Republicans have new energy after last year’s legislative elections, (b) Jay Nixon is a Democrat, (c) Jay Nixon will run for another term in 2012, (d) Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, a Republican, covets Nixon’s job, (e) Mayer, Tilley, and Kinder are from the same general pat of the state, (f) the target of both efforts is the Nixon administration, (g) and finally, Jay Nixon will run for another term in 2012.

That is not a misprint.

Seeking out WFA is always a responsible thing to do. Motives might become more apparent as we move toward November, 2012. Wonder if the radio and television commercials will mention anything about these efforts.

Surely not.

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