Massachusetts State Auditor Diana DiZoglio Feels Shortchanged By Governor Maura Healey’s Proposed State Budget

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2024/02/08/massachusetts-state-auditor-diana-dizoglio-feels-shortchanged-by-governor-maura-healeys-proposed-state-budget/

By Chris Lisinski
State House News Service

Looking to add audit teams and hire 83 more employees, Massachusetts Auditor Diana DiZoglio urged lawmakers Wednesday to send more money into her office and raised questions about the equitable distribution of funding to constitutional offices in Governor Maura Healey’s budget proposal.

DiZoglio, whose office is also seeking an extended timeline to complete its roughly 200 required audits of state entities, said the funding jolt would enable her office to pursue more special audit requests, including those from elected officials.

Shortly after Healey defended her budget pitch during a Joint Committee on Ways and Means hearing Wednesday, February 7, DiZoglio asked for the Legislature’s help in addressing what she described as inequities in the governor’s budget.

Under Healey’s proposal, the auditor’s office would see a 2.1 percent increase in funding, compared to a 9.2 percent increase to state Attorney General Andrea Campbell’s office, a 9.5 percent increase to Inspector General Jeffrey Shapiro’s office, a 10 percent increase to Secretary of State William Galvin’s office, and a 4.8 increase to Treasurer Deb Goldberg’s office, according to figures shared by DiZoglio’s team.

“We certainly understand budget constraints — we’ve been paying attention during the last year, and we understand that there were a lot of cuts made to a lot of districts,” DiZoglio said as she invoked her prior experience as a lawmaker. 

“I would like legislators to please consider our request for an increase in equity,” DiZoglio continued. “When it comes to looking at what similarly situated constitutional offices across the board are receiving when you consider the budget being proposed, there are some significant disparities in House 2.”

Beacon Hill’s top budget writers did not directly address DiZoglio’s demands. As DiZoglio finished answering questions from a handful of lawmakers, state Senator Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport), who chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee, told her:  “Thank you very much for your testimony. We look forward to working with you.”

DiZoglio told State House News Service that more money is needed to provide cost-of-living adjustments for employees and to fulfill the extra audit requests she said her office often receives from lawmakers, advocates, and constituents. Asked about the ideal funding balance for her office and other constitutional officers, DiZoglio said legislative budget chiefs can decide the distribution.

“I do not believe there needs to be a balloon effect and to that regard, certainly the state budget is a lot bigger than just the funding allocated to these constitutional offices,” DiZoglio told State House News Service. “My request is that when they look at the budget overall, it’s not about taking resources from somebody else and redistributing it — that’s not what the request is, certainly not. The request is that when we look at constitutional offices and the functions that we perform, that we value all of the functions, even those functions that exist to hold state government accountable.”

In her testimony, DiZoglio made no mention of her ongoing quest to audit the Legislature — an effort top Democrats have resisted — which includes an current attempt to obtain explicit audit authority through an initiative petition that could go to the state’s voters in November 2024.

DiZoglio proposed creating new audit units dealing with transportation, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, housing, the environment, and artificial intelligence. She also wants to add 50 new positions to manage the 210 audits that her office must complete at least once every three years, including ramping up the frequency of reviews of certain high-risk entities.

“If we’re in there earlier when we’re looking at climate mitigation, if we’re in there earlier when we’re looking at billions expended for housing, we’re able to recommend smaller adjustments, which is going to produce a better product and also save the taxpayers money,” executive deputy auditor Stephen Lisauskas told State House News Service.

Healey’s budget would give the auditor’s office a four-year window to complete its audits, DiZoglio said. DiZoglio supports the extended timeframe, but she said the Legislature did not agree with the policy when Healey also pitched it last year.

The additional time is critical as DiZoglio’s office deals with months-long delays to obtain the information her office requests from state agencies and departments, the auditor said. She likened the process to waiting to hear back on public records requests.

“Oftentimes, we do try to be flexible with these agencies and entities, as long as they display a spirit of cooperation. We will do our best to extend the opportunity to find documents if they’re saying they’re having a hard time locating them or it was years ago,” DiZoglio said. “We do our best to be flexible, but like our general counsel was saying, there is a reasonable timeframe and then there is an unreasonable timeframe.”

 

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